Though Trump didn’t detail his concerns with 3M, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said at a Thursday news conference that the administration has had concerns about whether the company’s production around the world is being delivered to the U.S.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he has been in touch with the White House about supposed price gouging by resellers of 3M masks and accused the company of not doing enough to ensure they end up in the hands of medical professionals.
3M has previously said it hasn’t changed the prices it charges and can’t control the prices dealers or retailers charge for their products.
The president is facing mounting pressure from governors and congressional Democrats to use the Korean War-era defense law that gives him sweeping powers to force companies to produce personal protective equipment and ventilators that are in short supply. More than 236,000 people in the U.S. have contracted the virus and more than 5,600 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Health-care officials and governors have said that in some localities, people may die because there won’t be enough ventilators for the growing number of patients who need them.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said the state would run out of ventilators in six days at the current rate. “If a person comes in and needs a ventilator and you don’t have a ventilator, the person dies,” Cuomo told reporters.
Trump said at the White House later on Thursday that “thousands” of ventilators are in production. But he faulted states for failing to stockpile them, deflecting criticism of his administration.
“We’re not an ordering clerk, we’re a backup,” Trump said. “The states have to stock up. It’s like one of those things, they waited.”
He has expressed reluctance to use the defense law, comparing it to nationalizing industries. He has said he prefers to use threats to invoke the act as leverage to force companies to comply with demands to manufacture equipment.
The president, however, ordered General Motors Co. last Friday to make ventilators by directing the U.S. health secretary, under the defense law, to require the automaker to do so.
—With assistance from Ellen Proper.