Senator Chris Murphy calls Trump comments about Democrats and COVID-19 "disgusting"

CBS

On Tuesday, President Trump said he would not allow Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key public health official on the Coronavirus Task Force, to testify before a House committee for political reasons. "The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They frankly want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death. They want us to fail so they can win an election, which they're not gonna win," the president said before his trip to Arizona.

Those words did not sit well with Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut.

"The president is saying Democrats are rooting for people to die because they think they're going to gain some political advantage over this misery persisting. That is disgusting," Murphy told Major Garrett for the CBS podcast "Debriefing the Briefing."

Fauci will, however, appear before the Republican-controlled Senate on May 12. Democrats are insisting on greater oversight of the roughly $3 trillion congress passed for coronavirus relief.

Senators returned to Washington this week, with many wearing masks and with new social distancing guidelines in place inside the Capitol complex.

The Senate is considering a series of nominations including that of John Ratcliffe, a Republican member of the House and the president's pick to lead the intelligence community.

"If we're passing legislation that's going to help beat this virus, then I'm willing to be in Washington," Murphy said, "But if we're doing other business that could easily wait, then let's put the safety of the folks who work in the Capitol first." He added that confirming judges does not relate to the pandemic.

Murphy also expressed concern about the president's rhetoric and armed protesters who, upset with stay-at-home restrictions, have marched on state capitols. "It scares the hell out of me," Murphy said. "I worry at some point [they] won't just be brandishing weapons but ultimately fire one of those weapons if the president continues to egg them on."

"I just want to warn the president, these folks listen to him," Murphy added, thought he stopped short of saying President Trump would bear responsibility for a violent act.

On Tuesday, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. surged past 70,000 and recent projections indicate the crisis may not abate soon. There is worry among public health officials about a second or third wave of cases in the fall and winter.

Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Chinese government has an "enormous amount to answer for…the world has to have a reckoning with China about their disastrous mishandling of this virus, especially in the early days."

He believes that China was late in admitting the virus easily transferred between humans and blames Beijing for withholding critical scientific data.

Although Mr. Trump was initially complimentary of Chinese President Xi Jinping's handling of the outbreak, he has also deflected criticism from himself by citing China for bungling its response and failing to share accurate data.