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Joe Biden blasts Trump’s response to coronavirus day after their phone call

Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks to the media through video chat from his home in Wilmington, Del., in this screen grab.
(CNN)

A day after President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a “warm” phone call about the coronavirus crisis, the likely Democratic nominee on Tuesday blasted the president’s handling of the pandemic.

“Coronavirus is not Donald Trump’s fault. But he does bear responsibility for our response and taking his duties seriously,” Biden told union leaders in the morning. “His failings and his delays [are] causing real pain for so many Americans.”

The president should fully implement the Defense Production Act, appoint a supply commander, create a Bank Defense Protection Act, exponentially increase testing, open up new access to Obamacare enrollment, and collect data on the infection and death rates of African Americans, Biden said Tuesday evening on CNN.

Earlier in the day, he said the president ought to coordinate states’ efforts to procure supplies and lead a coordinated global response to the immediate public health crisis as well as to long-term economic implications.

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“Trump likes to say he’s a wartime president,” Biden said. “Well, he needs to step up and act like it.”

A day prior, Biden and Trump spoke on the phone about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has caused the deaths of more than 12,000 people in the U.S. While both sides agreed not to disclose the details of the calls, both described it as a friendly conversation. Biden on Tuesday called the call “very gracious” and said that he only disclosed proposals he had previously released publicly.

The president has faced withering criticism for downplaying the seriousness of the threat in its early days, at one point saying he expected church pews to be full at Easter before backing away from that timeline. Trump has since cast himself as take-charge leader but also speaks frequently of the long-term consequences of effectively shutting down part of the American economy.

As hospitals battle the coronavirus, they’re baffled as the Trump administration seizes hard-to-stock medical supplies.

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Biden made his remarks Tuesday as voters in Wisconsin headed to the polls. Democrats and health officials sought to delay voting because of the pandemic, but the move was blocked by the state’s Republican lawmakers and a conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Biden was is well ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in state polling for the Democratic primary. The real contested prize on Tuesday was a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Biden said that he expects to do well in the primary but that on-site voting should not have been held because of the health risk.

“My gut is we shouldn’t have had the in-person election in the first place. It should have been all mail-in ballots,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who has shared that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Biden, who has turned to general election mode since amassing enough delegates to all but guarantee him the nomination, spoke earlier in the day about Trump as he addressed the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention. Normally a boisterous gathering of hundreds of union leaders, the convention was held over Zoom and streamed live on Facebook.

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Biden acknowledged the odd circumstances, which have put a halt to physical campaigning and made it difficult to get attention because of the onslaught of news coverage of the pandemic.

“This is a strange way to for us to be meeting. It’s great to be with you all, although we’re doing it virtually,” he said. “I’d certainly prefer to be able to be with all of you in person there. Being with Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is like going home, and I suspect you all feel the same way.”

Biden warned that the coming days would be grim, but said union members have helped guide the nation through the crisis and would be key to rebuilding the economy once the pandemic wanes.

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“All of us are going to be pushed to our limits, none more than those on the front line, our healthcare workers, our first responders, our essential workers who literally are carrying our nation on their backs,” he said.

Shortly after Biden’s remarks, he was endorsed by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Earlier in the day, the campaign announced that the former vice president had been endorsed by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The civil rights era icon encouraged Biden to consider choosing a woman of color as his running mate.

“The time has long passed to make the White House look like the whole of America,” Lewis said.

Coronavirus continues to spread, but the Trump administration disbanded the team that could have helped.

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