President Donald Trump warned 3M on Twitter Thursday night that it will “have a big price to pay” after the company was accused of various wrongdoings surrounding its production of N95 respirator masks.
“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their masks. ‘P Act’ all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing,” the president said on Twitter.
We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. “P Act” all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2020
His ominous warning came after he issued an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act and compelling 3M to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the number of face masks the agency “determines to be appropriate.”
3M is a Minnesota-based company and the world’s leading manufacturer of N95 respirator masks, which are in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it has moved to maximum production of the respirators and doubled its global output to a rate of 1.1 billion per year.
3M CEO Mike Roman said in a press release this week that the company has “put into motion additional investments and actions that will enable us to double our capacity once again, to 2 billion globally within the next 12 months.”
He said 3M expects to be producing N95 respirators at a rate of 50 million per month for use in the United States.
But the company has faced a swarm of alarming accusations in recent days, including claims that its distributors are engaging in price gouging and that it is selling its face masks to foreign governments over states and health care systems.
“3M lists all its distributors online, the ones buying and selling these things, and these distributors are making as much money as they possibly can. It’s wrong, it’s criminal,” billionaire Mark Cuban said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said on Twitter that he’s heard reports from 3M’s authorized distributors of “foreign governments showing up to factories with cash to jump ahead in the line.”
.@3M @3MNews please tell me this is #FakeNews. The stories of foreign governments showing up to factories with cash to jump ahead in the line is something I hear from your authorized distributors. @maddow @mcuban https://t.co/E8Msd0C9mf
— Jared Moskowitz (@JaredEMoskowitz) April 2, 2020
He repeated those claims in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson Thursday night, saying “foreign countries are showing up with cash to purchase the orders.”
“When I told 3M that, not only did they not dispute it, but I asked them if they put out any guidance to prevent the behavior and the answer was no,” he said. “Since when do we have a U.S. company that sells masks and I try to offer them money and they won’t sell them to me?”
“The idea that an American company is selling masks away from our hospitals, away from our doctors, away from the real heroes on the front lines is something that will long be investigated after this, but it’s really criminal,” he added.
Roman said on CNBC Friday that “the idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized reselling is absurd.”
“The idea that we’re not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country – nothing is further from the truth,” he added.
He said in a statement released Friday that there are “significant humanitarian implications” of the Trump administration’s order to cease exporting respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a “critical supplier of respirators.”
“In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done,” he continued. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease. That is the opposite of what we and the administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “3M Building” by Tony Webster. CC BY 2.0.