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The U.S. will suspend funding to the World Health Organization while it reviews the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday, saying the international health agency made mistakes that “caused so much death” as the coronavirus spread across the globe.
“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House press conference.
Trump criticized the international agency’s response to the outbreak, saying “one of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations” that Trump imposed early on in the outbreak.
“Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China saving untold numbers of lives,” he said.
It’s unclear exactly what mechanism Trump intends to use to withhold WHO funding, much of which is appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.
One option might be for Trump to use powers granted to the president under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Under this statute, the president may propose to withhold congressional funds, but it requires congressional approval within 45 days. Absent this approval, the funds must be returned to their original, congressionally mandated purpose after 45 days.
When asked by reporters why the administration is choosing now to withhold funds, Trump said the U.S. has had problems with WHO “for years” and the nation should have done this “a long time ago.”
He said the administration will conduct a “thorough” investigation that should last 60 to 90 days.
“It’s not money, but it’s not right. So we’ll see,” he said. “This is an evaluation period, but in the meantime, we’re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health. We’ll be able to take that money and channel it to the areas that most need it.”
WHO didn’t immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.
The coronavirus, which emerged in Wuhan, China over three months ago, has infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 125,678 as of Tuesday night, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump had first threatened last week to withhold funds from WHO, saying it pushed back on his travel ban from China early in the Covid-19 outbreak. He claimed Tuesday that WHO “pushed China’s misinformation about the virus, saying it wasn’t communicable and there was no need for travel bans.”
“The WHO willingly took China’s assurances at face value, and they willingly took it at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government even while praising China for its so-called transparency,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
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President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WHO started sounding the alarm on the outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, in mid-January, designating the now Covid-19 pandemic as a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when there were just 8,200 cases in 18 countries across the world.
The WHO’s global emergency declaration on Jan. 30 was nearly a month before Trump tweeted that “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA” and six weeks before he declared a national emergency on March 13.
Two days earlier, on March 11, WHO officials declared the outbreak a pandemic, when there were just 121,000 global cases.
In response to Trump’s attacks last week, WHO’s top official urged leaders against politicizing the outbreak “if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
“At the end of the day, the people belong to all political parties. The focus of all political parties should be to save their people, please do not politicize this virus,” Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a fiery address on April 8. He called for unity across the globe, saying the virus will exploit cracks in political parties, religious groups or between different nations to spread even more widely. “If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” he said.
–CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.
The Rocky statue is outfitted with mock surgical face mask at the Philadelphia Art Museum on April 14 in Philadelphia.
A girl, wearing a mask, walks down a street on April 14 in New York City.
Staff nurses and administrators hold signs and wait to welcome and clap in nurses arriving from around the country to help treat coronavirus patients at the Long Island Nursing Institute on April 14 in New York.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, wears a face mask to fend off the coronavirus as she listens to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speak during a news conference to call on FEMA to grant approval for Disaster Funeral Assistance to help families in lower-income communities and communities of color across New York pay for funeral costs amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 14 in New York.
Protesters from a grassroots organization called REOPEN NC protests the North Carolina coronavirus lockdown in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 14. The group was demanding the state economy be opened up no later than April 29.
Volunteers Ellen Mangum (L) and Claudia Zelidon cut, fold and pack surgical masks at Polar Shades Sun Control to help Las Vegas-area health care workers and first responders fighting the coronavirus on April 14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Assistant City Manager George Ellis packages okra at a drive-thru food distribution site at Sherbondy Park on April 14 in Opa-locka, FLorida. Hundreds of people lined up for the fresh vegetables and fruit.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with healthcare executives, in the White House on April 14 in Washington, D.C.
A sign asking for drivers to “avoid travel and stay home” due to the spread of coronavirus is displayed over the I10 freeway on April 14 in Santa Monica, California.
Registered nurses and healthcare workers protest what they say is a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for frontline workers at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., on April 13. Nurses across the country have raised concerns about the lack of PPE available as the spread of COVID-19 continues.
President Donald Trump walks from the podium as a White House-produced video plays during a briefing on April 13, in Washington. Trump used the briefing to attack critics.
Family members and members of the church, wearing a masks for protection, practice social distancing as the casket of the pastor of the Shining Star Freewill Baptist church Bishop James N. Flowers Jr is laid to rest at the Harmony Cemetery in Seat Pleasant, Marylan on April 13.
Ocyress Delarosa rode an almost empty light rail car during rush hour in Minneapolis, Minn., on April 13, 2020.
Via Emilia 9 restaurant employee Jenzro Alonso wears a protective mask as he delivers freshly-made meals to medical workers as part of the Frontline Foods Miami initiative in partnership with Chef Jose Andres’ non-profit organization World Central Kitchen, April 13, in Miami Beach, Fla.
Bicycle delivery men stop on the street during the coronavirus pandemic on April 13, in New York City.
A patient arrives in an ambulance outside NYU Langone Medical Center on April 13 in New York City.
Medical personnel are seen outside NYU Langone Health hospital as people applaud to show their gratitude on April 13 in New York City.
Sarah Rivas an employee at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Washington, D.C., arranges display of toilet paper and liquor for carry-out orders, April 13. The steakhouse closed due to the coronavirus pandemic but is opened for takeout orders offering the steakhouse’s menu, liquor and groceries.
A person wearing a protective face mask walks by the Robert Indiana sculpture “LOVE” at John F. Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia on April 13.
People walk taking care of social distance during a rainy day on April 13 in New York.
Beds fill a structure at a coronavirus isolation and quarantine complex for homeless on April 13 in Las Vegas.
Artwork by Lacey Gamble, a recently furloughed employee at Disney World, displays messages and Disney characters she drew with chalk on a sidewalk outside her apartment as a plea for help with unemployment benefits on April 13 in Windermere, Florida.
Street performer Robert John Burck, known as The Naked Cowboy, plays guitar amid coronavirus concern in the almost deserted Times Square on April 13 in New York.
The pavement is washed inside the reopened Municipal Fish Market after the it was temporarily closed last week during the coronavirus pandemic on April 13 in Washington, D.C.
People play pickleball on an empty street during the coronavirus pandemic on April 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Store employees work to stock shelves at a ShopRite supermarket on April 13 in Plainview, New York. Grocery stores and supermarkets on Long Island are busy balancing supply chains to keep up with increased consumer demands.
The United Airlines terminal sits empty at San Francisco International Airport on April 12 in San Francisco, California. San Francisco International Airport has a seen a huge decline in daily flights since the coronavirus shelter in place. United Airlines, the airport’s largest carrier with the most daily flights with 290 flights per day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has reduced their daily flights to 50 per day.
Firefighters cheered for healthcare workers, who risk their lives to fight against COVID-19 in New York City on April 12.
Streets are seen empty due to COVID-19 pandemic in New York City on April 12.
Empty seats are seen during an Easter service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, on April 12.
Pastor Paul Marc Goulet prays to people in their cars at an Easter drive-in service at the International Church of Las Vegas due to the coronavirus outbreak, Sunday, April 12 in Las Vegas.
Wearing a face mask, Erlinda Ortega, top left, cleans a pulpit, while Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, at center, with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, prepares to record a homily, after Budde led Easter Sunday services via livestream to an empty National Cathedral, on April 12 in Washington, in light of coronavirus pandemic precautions.
Peter Lando and his family take part in Easter Mass line-streamed on the television in their home from St. Mary’s Catholic Church amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Carlisle, Massachusetts on April 12.
A sign reading “Honk I’m 40” stands outside a home while people celebrate indoors during the lockdown, in Carlisle, Massachusetts, on April 12.
A man gestures as he wears bunny ears and face mask while passing in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, on April 12, in New York City.
People social distance as they walk through the Oculus transit hub after the arrival of a train from New Jersey on Easter, on April 12, in New York City.
Pastor Paul Goulet leads a drive-in Easter service amid the Coronavirus pandemic at the International Church of Las Vegas, on April 12.
Hashim, an essential worker in the healthcare industry, greets his daughter and nephew through the closed door as he maintains social distance from his family in New Rochelle, New Jersey, on April 11.
Felix and his mother Naomi Hassebroek look at her sister’s newborn baby through a glass door while dropping off a bag of supplies in Brooklyn, on April 11.
The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds fly over the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center in honor of front-line responders in the fight against the coronavirus on April 11 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. The pilots of the F-16 Fighting Falcons out of Nellis Air Force Base performed a 25-minute flyover of Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, in a show of appreciation for health care workers, first responders and others helping to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Family and people concerned about the health of prison inmates protest outside the Washington state capitol in Olympia on April 11.
Medical personnel are seen outside NYU Langone Health hospital as people applaud to show their gratitude to medical staff and essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic on April 11 in New York City.
Rows of beds are constructed in a convention hall at Suburban Collection Showplace, which is being converted into a field hospital to treat coronavirus patients on April 11 in Novi, Michigan. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a similar field hospital at TCF Center in Detroit with 1,000 beds that opened to patients diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 10.
A woman raises her hand during a drive-in Easter service held by the Relevant Church on April 11 at the YMCA parking lot in Clover, South Carolina,
Two girls learning to ride their bikes pose for a picture as lawyer Jessica Pride drives around the neighborhood with her husband dressed as the Easter Bunny during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Solana Beach, California, on April 11.
A woman wears a plastic food container for protection in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on April 11.
Jeannie Richards and sister Carol Soward gesture to their brother Donald Richard, who is among the 65 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), after bringing balloons and a note by his room window at The Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, on April 10.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio shows a bed set up in a temporary hospital located at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, on April 10.
Crosses are seen outside of a church, as each cross represents one life lost to coronavirus disease, in Louisiana, on April 10.
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colorized blue, from the first U.S. case of COVID-19.
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