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'We have a life and death situation': Trump lambasted for blaming slow coronavirus response on impeachment

Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed as an "excuse" claims from Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that impeachment proceedings distracted the president from appropriately responding to the coronavirus pandemic during its initial outbreak.

"We have a life-and-death situation in our country, and they should not try to hide behind an excuse for why they do not take action," the California Democrat said. "That's an admission that perhaps the president and the majority leader cannot handle the job," she said.

House Democratic leaders have targeted 20 April as the earliest they are likely to call members back to Washington to continue legislating the government's response to the health crisis.

Senate Republicans, who control that chamber's majority, have adopted a wait-and-see approach for calling senators back before considering new relief proposals.

House Democrats have promised to conduct aggressive oversight of the administration's response to the health crisis once the virus's impact abates. For now, Ms Pelosi is seeking to strike a more bipartisan tone to continue bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on the government's response.

"Let's put an after action review down the road," Ms Pelosi told CNN Wednesday.

But Republicans have already sought to direct some of the blame for the president's lagging coronavirus response towards Democrats, linking it to Democrats' impeachment case against him.

The impeachment trial "diverted the attention of the government, because everything, every day was all about impeachment," McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday.

Impeachment proceedings wrapped up when the Senate voted to acquit Trump on 5 February. Mr Trump announced restricted travel from China, where the virus originated, on 31 January, but the first death from Covid-19 in the western world wasn't announced until 14 February.

Mr Trump initially admitted at his daily coronavirus press briefing Tuesday that impeachment "probably did" distract him from responding to the coronavirus. But he quickly backtracked.

"I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, OK?" the president said.

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