|Trump sends letter to WHO chief, threatens to permanently cut off funding|
|Trump announced to suspend WHO funding over pandemic response|
|Trump threatens to freeze WHO’s funding then backtracks in last minutes|
According to the Los Angeles Times, President Trump said Friday that the U.S. will be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, saying it had failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus because China has “total control” over the global organization.
President Trump speaks from the White House Rose Garden on Friday. (Associated Press)
“China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying USD40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately USD450 million a year,” Trump said during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, CNBC reported.
“The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency. Why is it that China shut off infected people from Wuhan to all other parts of China?” he added. “It didn’t go to Beijing, it went nowhere else, but they allowed them to freely travel throughout the world, including Europe and the United States.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO’s response to the coronavirus, which has hit the U.S worse than any other country, amid scrutiny of his own administration’s response to the pandemic. He has claimed the WHO is “China-centric” and blames the agency for advising against China travel bans early in the outbreak.
WHO spokesperson told CNN Friday, "We have no comment to offer at this point."
The President had previously announced a temporary halt of funding to the WHO and sent a letter to the agency earlier in May saying that the US would permanently pull funding if the WHO did not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days."
In that letter, Trump included a false description of when information about the virus was published in The Lancet, prompting the prestigious medical journal to publicly dispute his claims.
Trump's decision to permanently terminate the US relationship with the WHO follows a years-long pattern of skepticism of world organizations, with the President claiming in nearly every circumstance that the US was being taken advantage of.
He's also blamed China for taking advantage of the US, pointing the finger at the nation for taking US jobs and, now, failing to stop the spread of coronavirus into the US.
It is reported by CNBC that it’s unclear exactly what mechanism Trump intends to use to terminate WHO funding, much of which is appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor and faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said in a tweet Friday that Trump’s move is “unlawful” because pulling funding requires Congress, which has already authorized funding.
It’s also “dangerous” because “we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement about U.S. trade relations with China and Hong Kong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
According to CNN, health experts, US lawmakers and world leaders have expressed concern over defunding the organization amid a pandemic.
Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, assailed Trump's announcement Friday as "senseless" with "significant, harmful repercussions."
"COVID-19 affects us all and does not respect borders; defeating it requires the entire world working together," Harris said in a statement. "In the strongest terms possible, the American Medical Association urges the President to reverse course and not abandon our country's leadership position in the global fight against COVID-19."
Trump's announcement also received pushback within the Republican party. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said, "I disagree with the president's decision."
"The United States cannot eliminate this virus on our own and to withdraw from the World Health Organization -- the world's leading public health body -- is nothing short of reckless," Joe Manchin -a conservative Democrat said in a statement. "Throughout our nation's history, the United States has always risen to lead the world through crisis and I believe we must continue to do that now.
"I strongly urge the President to reconsider this decision and I urge all my Congressional colleagues to speak out. It's time for us to stand tall," he continued.
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