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Democratic candidates slam 'great genius' Trump for botching coronavirus response

Image: Concern In South Korea As The Wuhan Covid-19 Spreads
Professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a traditional market in Seoul on on Feb. 26, 2020 Copyright Chung Sung-Jun Getty Images
Copyright Chung Sung-Jun Getty Images
By Lauren Egan with NBC News Politics
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"There's nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing," said Mike Bloomberg at the debate in Charleston, S.C.


CHARLESTON, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidates criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak during the debate on Tuesday night, blasting budget cuts his administration has made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his thrashing of the U.S.'s international relationships.

"This president has not invested like he should have in his budget — he tried to cut back on the CDC, he tried to cut back on the international organizations that would coordinate with the rest of the world, he hasn't yet really addressed the nation on this topic," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. "I would do all of that."

Klobuchar was asked by the CBS moderators if she would close the border to Americans who had been exposed to the virus, but she did not answer the question.

"What we have to do is make sure that we have treatment for those Americans and that they are in a quarantine situation," she said. "We don't want to expose people, but we want to give them help."

Mike Bloomberg said, "The president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago. There's nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing."

For his part, Joe Biden took the opportunity to remind voters of his work during the ebola crisis in 2014, saying, "We did it, we stopped it."

"I would be on the phone with China making it clear we are going to need to be in your country. We have to be there with you and insist on it," Biden said. "No one up here has ever dealt with world leaders, I am the only one that has."

Federal health officials said Tuesday that they expect the coronavirus to spread wider in the U.S. and they are preparing for a potential pandemic. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control said the virus could disrupt daily lives, including closing schools, working from home and delaying elective medical procedures. Wall Street plunged for a second straight day on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 877 points.

Trump tweeted during the Democratic debate that his administration was "doing a GREAT job" handling the coronavirus.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., mocked Trump's claims that the coronavirus is "under control."

"In the White House today, we have a self-described 'great genius' — self-described. And this great genius has told us that this coronavirus is going to end in two months," Sanders said. "I wish I was kidding. That is what he said."

Sanders linked the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China earlier this year, to other global problems such as climate change.

"Whether or not the issue is climate change — which is clearly a global crisis requiring international cooperation — or infectious diseases like coronavirus, requiring international cooperation, we have to work and expand the World Health Organization," Sanders said. "This is a global problem, we've got to work with countries all the over the world to solve it."

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