After delaying, Trump finally uses the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to help with coronavirus response

Trump coronavirus
  • After delaying for days, President Donald Trump activated the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to help produce ventilators for the nation's coronavirus response. 
  • This came less than a day after Trump downplayed the need for ventilators.
  • The president had already invoked the Defense Production Act, which gives him the power to pressure companies into producing materials necessary for the national defense, but hadn't actually used it.
  • Trump repeatedly sent mixed messages on why he hadn't fully activated the law, stating that it wasn't needed and falsely claiming it would be akin to nationalizing industries. 
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President Donald Trump on Friday activated the Defense Production Act to push General Motors into ramping up the production of ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a move the president said will "save American lives."

Trump said that the automaker was wasting time in negotiations with his administration over ventilators, forcing him to activate the law. 
"Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators," Trump said in a statement. 

"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," Trump added. "GM was wasting time. Today's action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives."

Trump had technically already invoked the Korean War-era law, which allows the federal government to pressure the private sector into producing supplies necessary for the national defense. But despite claims to the contrary from the president, Trump hadn't actually used it up until Friday.

The president in recent days was under increasing pressure from congressional lawmakers and governors, such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, to fully activate the law in order to help states obtain desperately-needed medical supplies. 

But even after declaring himself a "wartime president" due to coronavirus, Trump for days resisted tapping into his powers under the Defense Production Act. He falsely contended it would amount to nationalizing private industry in the US, and maintained that the private sector was already doing enough to fill the gaps in terms of what states needed. In tweets on Friday, Trump shifted his tone and attacked General Motors and Ford over the issues with ventilators and threatened to use the Defense Production Act. 


Trump's decision to activate the Defense Production Act came less than a day after the president downplayed the need for ventilators. The president on Thursday night told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he didn't think states like New York needed as many ventilators as they've requested, even though reports have made clear hospitals in New York City are already overwhelmed and undersupplied due to the pandemic.

The US now has the highest number of reported coronavirus cases in the world - over 94,000.

Trump on Friday also signed a $2.2 trillion relief bill aimed at addressing the myriad economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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