Cuomo says Trump is 'incompetent' and 'irrelevant' after vaccine threat

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo hit back at President Donald Trump Friday evening after he threatened to withhold a forthcoming Covid-19 vaccine from New Yorkers, calling the president incompetent, delusional and retaliatory.

“The president lost New York state in the election by a huge margin. You have New York prosecutors who are investigating the president for tax fraud,” Cuomo told MSNBC’s Katy Tur. “This is his issue. It’s his credibility issue. It’s the fear that he politicized the health process of this nation, which is a well-founded fear.”

More than 50 percent of Americans in various polls said they worried about the efficacy of a rushed Covid-19 vaccine under the Trump administration, which Cuomo said has bullied scientists and other public health officials.

“Who’s going to put a needle in their arm if you don’t trust the approval process of the vaccine?” Cuomo said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

New York is one of a handful of states to institute panels to review FDA protocol as vaccines are made public. Once vaccine candidates can be independently verified for safety, Cuomo — along with governors in states such as California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — will “build confidence in people” to get inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

“We are ready to distribute it,” he said on CNN. “The only problem could be if a scientific panel from my state or one of the other states reviewed the FDA approval process and said something was wrong.”

Despite those concerns in other states, Trump singled out Cuomo at his press briefing Friday. Cuomo, a personal friend of President-elect Joe Biden, has grown increasingly vituperative in his attacks on Trump in recent months and the president has responded in kind.

“As soon as April the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York state where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say — I don’t think it’s good politically, I think it’s very bad from a health standpoint — he wants to take his time with the vaccine,” Trump said in his first public remarks since his defeat. “He doesn’t trust where the vaccine’s coming from.”

Cuomo said the president was targeting him due to personal and political spats they have had over the past four years, such as disagreements on immigration policy and the federal government declining to fund badly needed infrastructure projects in the region.

“That’s been his M.O.,” Cuomo said. “Everything is personal with this president. There can’t be a disagreement on principle, and he retaliates. He uses the government as a retaliatory tool. That’s what he does.”

New York Attorney General Tish James also weighed in on Trump’s threat with an assertion of her own, vowing to sue the federal government if New York was somehow left out of the distribution process.

“This is nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to [take] vengeance on those who oppose his politics,” she said in a statement. “If dissemination of the vaccine takes place in the twilight of a Trump Administration and the president wants to play games with people’s lives, we will sue and we will win.”

Cuomo dismissed Trump’s involvement with distributing a vaccine, which is unlikely to be available before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

“The federal government on Covid has been very short on details, and has frankly been incompetent in the administration,” Cuomo said on MSNBC. "[He’s] irrelevant because I think it will fall to the Joe Biden administration.”

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