GOP governor, fearing White House interference, hides virus tests

A Republican chief executive of a large state is, in effect, afraid that a Republican White House will come to his state and steal his stuff.
Image: Larry Hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., speaks at a news conference, in Annapolis, Md. on April 3, 2020.Brian Witte / AP
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump recently made it quite clear that he expects governors, and not his administration, to take the lead on coronavirus testing. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) took the president's directive seriously.

As we discussed last week, the New York Times reported that the Republican governor and his wife -- a bilingual Korean immigrant -- went to great lengths to reach a deal with Korean supplier, and those efforts were a success: thanks to Hogan's private arrangement, Maryland will have 500,000 new tests.

Trump wasn't pleased with the governor striking a deal outside federal channels -- and the president said so publicly -- but the Maryland governor did it anyway.

Yesterday, Hogan sat down with the Washington Post's Robert Costa, who received a rather remarkable update on the status of those recently acquired tests.

"The National Guard and the State Police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location," Hogan said. Hogan said the decision to hide the precious tests was motivated in part by reports that the federal government had been confiscating shipments sent to other states, like Massachusetts.

As part of the same interview, the governor said he made sure the Korean plane carrying the supplies landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (known locally as BWI), despite the fact that a Korean Air plane had never before landed at that airport.

I'm not marveling at this because Hogan went to -- and continues to go to -- such extraordinary lengths. I'm also disinclined to accuse the governor, who still doesn't want to disclose the location of the tests, of being paranoid.

Rather, what I find remarkable is the stranger-than-fiction circumstances. A Republican chief executive of a large state is, in effect, afraid that a Republican White House will come to his state and steal his stuff -- not because of idle speculation or fanciful theories, but because of reports indicating that the White House has already stolen other states' stuff.

And what, pray tell, would happen if the Trump administration uncovered the location of Maryland's tests and dispatched officials to, shall we say, retrieve them? What would the armed National Guard and State Police personnel guarding these tests do?

Here's hoping we don't have to find out.

Postscript: As Rachel explained on the show last night, Maryland has the tests, but hasn't yet deployed the tests. That's because the state, like many nationwide, still needs swabs, reagents, and other lab materials that are necessary to process the tests.