New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, threatened to sue President Donald Trump's administration Friday over a gross misrepresentation of comments the president made about distribution of the forthcoming coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking from the Rose Garden on Friday, Trump announced that up to 20 million Americans could receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December.
Immediately after the announcement, Trump's detractors accused the president of threatening to withhold the vaccine from New Yorkers "to settle old scores" with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). CNN similarly claimed Trump made a "threat" to not send the vaccine to New York.
What did James say?
James accused Trump of "playing politics with people's lives."
"Any attempt by Donald Trump to deny New York access to a lifesaving #COVID19 vaccine will be met with a lawsuit, plain and simple," she said. "Stop playing politics with people's lives."
Any attempt by Donald Trump to deny New York access to a lifesaving #COVID19 vaccine will be met with a lawsuit, pl… https://t.co/pQ93UuqKcO— NY AG James (@NY AG James)1605308225.0
In a statement, James further attacked Trump, accusing him of "vindictive behavior" and "trying to extract vengeance on those who oppose his politics."
"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," she threatened.
Meanwhile, Cuomo accused Trump of being a "bully."
Did Trump threaten to withhold the vaccine?
While announcing the rollout of the vaccine — which Trump said could be available to the general population as soon as April — Trump noted that Cuomo has questioned the legitimacy of a vaccine produced under the leadership of the Trump administration.
In fact, Trump said the vaccine will only be delivered once New York gives the government authorization to do so, which Trump said "pains me."
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 — and I don't think it's good politically, I think it's very bad from a health standpoint, but he wants to take his time with the vaccine. He doesn't trust where the vaccine's coming from. These are coming from the greatest companies anywhere in the world, greatest labs in the world, but he doesn't trust the fact that it's this White House, this administration, so we won't be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so, and that pains me to say that.
In fact, just last month, Cuomo said Americans should be "very skeptical" of the vaccine, explaining he doesn't trust the Food and Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Trump.
"What I said I'm going to do in New York is we're going to put together our own group of doctors and medical experts to review the vaccine and the efficacy and the protocol, and if they say it's safe, then I'll go to the people of New York and I will say it's safe, with that credibility. But I believe all across the country, you're going to need someone other than this FDA and this CDC saying it's safe," Cuomo said.