President Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

On Thursday night, Donald Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act. He made the announcement on Twitter, of course.

According to a report from Kevin Breuninger, the president issued an order on Thursday night directing Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to “use any and all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate.”

Here is the response from 3M’s CEO.

In commenting on this, Kevin Drum identified the problem with Trump’s selective use of this authority.

The White House didn’t explain this, and it’s a little unnerving to see Trump using the DPA in such a gleefully punitive way. It’s supposed to be a technocratic tool for coordinating production, not a way for a president to score political points on Twitter.

All of this raises the question of what 3M did that earned the ire of the president. As it turns out, this segment of Tucker Carlson’s show aired on Fox News not long before Trump fired off his tweet.

Carlson’s guest, Jared Moskowitz, works for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis as his director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. He railed about not being able to get face masks from 3M.

It is difficult to sort out the truth from the lies in that segment. Some of the issues Moskowitz is pointing to surfaced after we learned that the federal government, probably under the direction of Jared Kushner, has turned the supply chain for these critical supplies over to the private sector. Josh Marshall documented the issues that raises.

First is that there’s no clear mechanism to allocate these supplies on the basis of need based on a coherent national plan or framework. Secondly, it opens the door to massive profiteering. Even if companies aren’t technically gouging, that’s what bidding is. And you really can’t call this a legitimate private sector market if every state is having to bid with private companies to secure medical supplies during a historic national health emergency. The private sector rationale is also undermined if the US military has taken over a significant part of the fulfillment process.

The man who turned around the Bush administration’s botched response to Katrina, Lt. General Russel Honore, explained why that is a recipe for disaster.

Regardless of any complicity on the part of 3M, none of the issues Moskowitz complained about would be happening if this administration was taking charge of the supply chain rather than turning it over to the private sector. Those are the facts.

But beyond all of that, what we see is that once again the President of the United States took retributive action based on a segment he watched on Fox News. If you think his son-in-law, who has now been put in charge of managing this effort, will do any better, take a look at this.

What we have is a president who, during a national emergency, is directing policy based on what he hears on Fox News and from his “friends.” Of course, that’s what he’s always done. In the past, it was bad news. But it is now unconscionable.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.