by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 1, 2020) — At Wednesday’s White House coronavirus Task Force briefing beginning at 5:36 p.m. EDT, President Trump declared that “America continues to wage all-out war” on the disease, which has permeated more than 150 countries worldside and is currently ravaging New York City, Detroit and New Orleans, among other locations.

Accompanying Trump on the podium were Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and a number of other military officials, along with Attorney General William Barr.

Following Trump, Esper spoke about the U.S. military’s efforts to interdict narco-criminals to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley amplified Esper’s remarks about the effects of drug-trafficking on American citizens.  He said that the Navy and Coast Guard will assure that “you’re not going to get through.”

Barr said that the nation’s “law-enforcement and national security work” must continue despite the coronavirus crisis.  He said that narcotics trafficking affects “state budgets” and poses a national security risk.  Barr recounted that last year he met with Mexican president Obrador to “discuss” joint efforts against drug cartels, many of which are based in Mexico.  “For years the cartels have been using these sea routes” to transport drugs into the U.S., Barr said, and that the U.S. is often aware of their positions “at sea.”

Barr announced that last week, the Justice Department charged Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro with narco-trafficking.  He said that drug trafficking has been a longstanding problem and that “this administration” has not ignored it.  He thanked Trump and Esper for their efforts “to win this war.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien reinforced that the military is actively involved in pursuing drug-traffickers and specifically, those of “the Maduro regime” at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic plays out in te U.S.  “We will always protect our servicemen and servicewomen” around the world, O’Brien said, stating that the Trump administration is “clear-eyed” about protecting U.S. national security.

In answering reporters’ questions, Trump said that the border wall his administration has been constructing, which now measures “160 miles,” has been very effective in keeping out illegal border-crossers.

O’Brien said that China’s reported coronavirus “numbers” are not able to be verified.

To a question put by Fox News’s John Roberts about Trump’s earlier tweet stating that the administration had learned that Iran could be planning an attack on U.S. interests in Iraq, Trump said that “if they do something,” the U.S. “response will be bigger.”

Regarding the U.S.-China relationship, Trump said that China is buying U.S. farmers’ products in accordance with the trade agreement he negotiated prior to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan City in December.  Trump stated his relationship with China’s President Xi remains strong.

He said that some of the 151 countries affected by the coronavirus are “doing very badly” based on their lack of knowledge of mitigation factors such as “social distancing,” an element of Trump’s now 30-day plan for the month of April to “slow the spread.”

As for exports of medical supplies, Trump said the U.S. will continue to assist other countries with equipment that it can spare given its own needs.

Trump said that “the president of Mexico is a great guy” who has positioned 27,000 of his soldiers on the U.S.-Mexico border, greatly reducing the number of illegals attempting to cross.

U.S. soldiers in Iraq are “taking precautions,” Trump said in response to a question from Reuters’s Jeff Mason, and affirmed that Iraq “knew about” the intelligence that Iran is planning an attack.

Esper said the fact that coronavirus has permeated the military will not preclude it from carrying out its mission to protect the national security.  He said that “social distancing” and sanitary processes among soldiers are being reinforced.

At 6:17 p.m., Trump suggested that his military members be permitted to “get back to work” but remained at the podium to answer additional questions.



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