Donald Trump, Andrew Cuomo agree to speed up virus testing after 'productive' meeting

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made nice after an Oval Office meeting Tuesday, pledging to work together on the issue that has divided the White House and many of the nation's governors: More coronavirus testing.

Cuomo called the meeting "functional and effective," while Trump described it as a "very productive" session in which he and the governor signed off on a plan to double testing in New York over the next few weeks.

"We hope that this model will work with the other states as well," Trump told reporters at the White House.

Speaking with MSNBC about the meeting with Trump, Cuomo said: "For me, the substance of the agenda was testing – who does what, how do we get up to scale."

The governor described the president as "inquisitive" about New York's timeline for reopening but said Trump did not attempt to impose a deadline for that milestone. 

“He never editorialized on what he thought was an appropriate timeline,” Cuomo told MSNBC.

Trump and Cuomo also said they discussed the prospects of aid for New York in a future federal stimulus package. Cuomo told MSNBC that a Navy hospital ship sent to New York City to help fight the coronavirus is no longer needed, "so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it.”

The unusual visit from Cuomo, which the president announced a day earlier, came as the Empire State works to pull out of its particularly deadly bout with the virus. Trump and Cuomo, a Democrat, have lurched between slamming and applauding each other in closely watched news conferences during the health crisis.      

"What does testing mean, and how do we do it, and how can the federal government work in partnership with states?” Cuomo asked reporters before heading to Washington, D.C., for his meeting at the White House.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Trump and Cuomo have taken turns praising and attacking each other over their responses on issues like testing, production of ventilators, and supplies of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. Cuomo has at times argued the federal government must do far more, and at other times has thanked Trump for the administration's effort.   

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During his White House briefings, Trump often cites Cuomo's praise while ignoring his criticism. During a news briefing On Sunday, for instance, the president played a series of videos in which the New York governor praised Trump and his team.

But Trump has been dismissive of concerns raised by governors of both parties that states do not have enough testing capacity to begin reopening their economies – something the president has indicated he would like to see happen sooner rather than later. The president, and public health officials in his administration, say states have more testing capacity than they realize.    

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence watch a TV clip of New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a White House news briefing on Sunday.

Asked why Cuomo was visiting the White House, Trump said, "we get along, OK?" The president then noted the governor's "generous" praise of his team.

"I appreciated it because it's not about me, it's about these people and thousands" of others involved in the response, Trump said.

Hours before the meeting on Thursday, Cuomo told reporters he would tell Trump "the truth," both good and bad, about the administration's response to coronavirus.

He added that Trump "has no problem telling me when he disagrees, and he tells me when he agrees ... I have no problem telling him when I disagree and when I agree."

At times, Cuomo has attacked the Trump administration for the slow delivery of necessary supplies. Trump, meanwhile, has said Cuomo and other governors have requested too much equipment.

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Trump has criticized Cuomo by name over the governor's claim New York needed 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators to meet the expected increase in coronavirus patients. Trump said the request was too high.

Now Trump and other governors are arguing over testing. The president said the federal government can help, but the governors are in charge of obtaining testing kits for their constituents.

"The federal government has already made immense testing capabilities available, but some states need to take action to fully utilize it," Trump said.

Cuomo said New York and other states have struggled to line up supply chains for test kits and need more assistance from the federal government.

“You shouldn’t expect all these governors to run around and do an international supply chain while they’re trying to put together their testing protocol in their state, coordinating their labs,” Cuomo said.

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Trump and Cuomo have also differed on when states should reopen their economies, and whether the president has the authority to make those decisions. Trump has claimed, without citing evidence, he has the authority but governors and constitutional scholars say it is a state power. 

Contributing: John Fritze