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Obama lashes out at Trump in call with supporters

Last Updated May 10, 2020 at 1:25 pm PDT

FILE - This Dec. 13, 2019 file photo shows former President Barack Obama speaking at the Gathering of Rising Leaders in the Asia Pacific, organized by the Obama Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Obama will deliver a televised prime-time commencement address for the Class of 2020 during an hour-long event that will also feature LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai and Ben Platt, among others. ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC will simultaneously air the special May 16 at 8 p.m. Eastern, along with more than 20 other broadcast and digital streaming partners, according to the announcement Tuesday from organizers. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster” during a conversation with ex-members of his administration, according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News.

Obama also reacted to the Justice Department dropping its criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying he worried that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”

More than 77,000 people with COVID-19 have died in the United States and more than 1.27 million people have tested positive.

Obama’s comments came during a Friday call with 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association, people who served in his administration. Obama urged his supporters to back his former vice-president, Joe Biden, who is trying to unseat Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

“What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” Obama said, according to Yahoo News.

“It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government,” he said.

Trump has consistently defended and boasted of his response to the virus, saying that travel restrictions from China and Europe as well as social distancing guidelines have prevented far greater damage. “I think we saved millions of lives,” he said earlier this week.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not mention Obama directly in her response to his remarks.

“President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives,” she said. “While Democrats were pursuing a sham witch hunt against President Trump, President Trump was shutting down travel from China.

“While Democrats encouraged mass gatherings, President Trump was deploying PPE, ventilators, and testing across the country,” she said.