Here are all the times Trump invoked national defense laws — before being reluctant to use them on coronavirus
President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at the White House. (AFP / Roberto SCHMIDT)

President Donald Trump has repeatedly resisted invoking the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus pandemic, only recently issuing an order under the act to produce medical equipment.

But he was much quicker to invoke the act on a number of other issues throughout his presidency — in fact, according to The New York Times, he has used it hundreds of thousands of times.

"Chemicals used to construct military missiles. Materials needed to build drones. Body armor for agents patrolling the southwest border. Equipment for natural disaster response," wrote Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Ana Swanson. "A Korean War-era law called the Defense Production Act has been invoked hundreds of thousands of times by President Trump and his administration to ensure the procurement of vital equipment, according to reports submitted to Congress and interviews with former government officials."

"Invoking the Defense Production Act is hardly a rare occurrence. As recently as last summer, the Department of Defense used it to obtain rare earth metals needed to build lasers, jet engines and armored vehicles," the report continued. "The Defense Department estimates that it has used the law’s powers 300,000 times a year. The Department of Homeland Security — including its subsidiary, FEMA — placed more than 1,000 so-called rated orders in 2018, often for hurricane and other disaster response and recovery efforts, according to a report submitted to Congress in 2019 by a committee of federal agencies formed to plan for the effective use of the law."

The Defense Production Act gives the federal government the broad authority to direct companies to use their resources, sell to specific people, and prioritize clients in the name of national defense.

"People familiar with the president’s thinking say he has been skeptical of using the law, seeing it as anti-American," said the report. "But politics may have also influenced Mr. Trump’s decision. The president has repeatedly tried to deflect responsibility for the most significant crisis on American soil in decades. Using the Defense Production Act would make it clear that the government is in charge."

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