Trump outbid governors on coronavirus supplies after telling them to buy their own

March 19, 2020, 9:31 PM UTC

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President Donald Trump’s directive for governors to buy their own medical supplies to fight the coronavirus has run into a big problem—the federal government.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told Trump during a video conference on Thursday that his state three times lost out to the federal government on purchases of critical supplies, creating an awkward moment during the made-for-TV event at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.

“I’ve got a feeling that if someone has the chance to sell to you and to sell to me, I am going to lose on every one of those,” a sheepish-sounding Baker told Trump, who chuckled at the remark.

The president replied he still wants governors to seek out their own medical equipment, like protective gear for doctors and nurses as well as respirators, but acknowledged the federal government has greater buying power than any state.

“Prices are always a component of that also. And maybe that’s why you lost to the feds, OK, that’s probably why,” Trump said.

At Trump’s request, Vice President Mike Pence responded that “we want to facilitate all the states and the health care providers in your states to be able to access that supply chain as it becomes more robust.”

When New Mexico’s governor raised similar concerns later in the call, Trump said he would ask FEMA to ensure there were no conflicts with purchases in the future.

Trump earlier Thursday repeated his belief that the onus should be on the states—and not the federal government—to obtain needed equipment to combat the pandemic, saying his administration is not a “shipping clerk” for the supplies that could potentially save lives.

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