The CEO of 3M said Friday his company is maximizing its efforts to get respirator masks to U.S. health workers fighting the coronavirus, pushing back on what he called President Donald Trump's "absurd" suggestion that the manufacturer was not doing all it could.
"Nothing is further from the truth," CEO Mike Roman said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" after being read Trump's tweet slamming 3M "after seeing what they were doing with their Masks."
Trump on Thursday issued an order under the Defense Production Act directing acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to "use any and all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate."
Later Thursday, Trump tweeted, "We hit 3M hard today."
"Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing - will have a big price to pay!" the president wrote.
"The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized reselling is absurd," Roman said. "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."
Asked if the White House is trying to cover up for its own inadequacies in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 6,058 people in the U.S., Roman said the narrative being presented is "just not true."
In a statement earlier Friday, 3M said it was already working with the Trump administration on getting more masks to the U.S., prior to the president's invocation of the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law.
"We have been working closely with the Administration to do exactly that, and we appreciate the authorities in the DPA that provide a framework for us to expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis," the company said.
Roman said on CNBC that "we are net importing [respirators] into the U.S., and we've been telling the administration for days and days."
The Minnesota-based company had also warned the administration that its apparent request for the company to halt its exports to Canadian and Latin American markets could actually hinder the amount of masks brought into the U.S.
"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," 3M said. "If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease."
Said Roman: "We're more than happy to shift our overseas production to the U.S., but there are going to be consequences on a humanitarian level as we are often the sole provider of those respirators around the world."