Jared Kushner’s Willful Negligence Cost America Dearly
A timeline for how Kushner and the Trump Administration put politics and “good publicity” before American lives.
On July 30th, Vanity Fair broke the news of a series of fatal decisions and mistakes made by members of the Trump Administration, which lead to a nonexistent federal response to Covid-19. Specifically, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, was in charge of a brain-trust designed to find solutions to the dearth of testing kits. Instead, the administration axed the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan for testing and contact tracing and seized hundreds of thousands of privately-purchased tests and PPE. Note: The United States has 4.64 million confirmed cases to date. Why did Kushner abandon a strategy that would have minimized American lives lost if implemented correctly? Surely Trump’s re-election chances this fall would rise immeasurably with a pristine, apolitical Covid-19 response?
Let’s find out.
“When Jared Kushner set out in March to solve the diagnostic-testing crisis, his efforts began not with public health experts but with bankers and billionaires. They saw themselves as the ‘A-team of people who get shit done,’ as one participant proclaimed in a March Politico article.” — Vanity Fair.
When Trump said he would “run America like a business,” he certainly kept that promise. Kushner, the man with his only qualification being Donald Trump’s son-in-law, formed a “brain trust” of similarly-qualified candidates. After all, what could epidemiologists and public policy researchers do that his summer college roommate Adam Boehler could not?
Early April 2020
“Although President Trump has directed states and hospitals to secure what supplies they can, the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump and other White House officials, including his close advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have insisted that the federal government is using a data-driven approach to procure supplies and direct them where they are most needed…
…But the agency has refused to provide any details about how these determinations are made or why it is choosing to seize some supply orders and not others. Administration officials also will not say what supplies are going to what states.” — LA Times, 7 April 2020.
In early April, hospitals around the nation began reporting that administration officials began “seizing masks and other coronavirus supplies without a word.”
According to the Vanity Fair article, the plan Kushner’s team worked out by early April called for the federal government to “coordinate distribution of test kits so that they could surge to heavily affected areas, and oversee a national contact-tracing infrastructure… a massive scale-up of antibody testing to facilitate a return to work… all COVID-19 test results from any kind of testing, taken anywhere, [are required to] be reported to a national repository as well as to state and local health departments.”
The federal government will seize and redistribute tests and PPE, and there are confident, strong next steps in place. Why keep it under wraps? After all, FEMA spokesperson Lizzie Litzow “denied the agency was seizing any shipments,” The New York Times reported.
Late April 2020
“The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it ‘would have put us in a fundamentally different place,’ said the participant.
But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it — efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically — and erroneously, it would turn out — predicted the virus would soon fade away.
Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.” — Vanity Fair.
Ah, stock markets and presidential elections. What could be more American?
Remember, while the plan to save America was stuck in “bad publicity” limbo, the White House “erected a blockade… to prevent delivery of critical medical equipment to states desperately in need.” The situation deteriorated to the point where the Governor of Illinois had to smuggle PPE supplies into his own state “out of fear the Trump administration might seize the cargo for the federal stockpile,” the Sun-Times reported.
You read that correctly. A state governor feared their legally-purchased medical supplies would be seized by federal agents, to the point where he had to disguise the flights and shipments—Republican small-government in action.
Of course, Trump responded, saying at a press conference: “There is a governor, I hear him complaining all the time, Pritzker. He is always complaining. In Illinois, the governor couldn’t do his job, so we had to help him.”
The Great Trump Plan — 27 April 2020
“On April 27, Trump stepped to a podium in the Rose Garden, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force and leaders of America’s big commercial testing laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, and finally announced a testing plan: It bore almost no resemblance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shifted the problem of diagnostic testing almost entirely to individual states.
Under the plan released that day, the federal government would act as a facilitator to help increase needed supplies and rapidly approve new versions of diagnostic-testing kits. But the bulk of the effort to operate testing sites and find available labs fell to the states.” — Vanity Fair.
The national plan fell through. Around-the-clock work to formulate a plan which would identify disease “hot spots” and establish “a national Sentinel Surveillance System” — gone.
Like a true business, the Trump administration dumped their stock and flipped-off their shareholders as they gutted the company for all it was worth, leaving the states to save themselves. However, there may have been another reason.
Vanity Fair’s shocking answer is political:
“Because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. ‘The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,’ said the expert.
That logic may have swayed Kushner. ‘It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,’ the expert said.”
If true, what a cruel, cold-blooded decision. Democratic states: business competitors to be removed by any means necessary. Of course, New York and San Francisco would be hurt the strongest at first; what better time for a virus to remove troublesome voter blocks?
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday slammed former President Barack Obama for criticizing the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a private call last week, asserting that he ‘should have kept his mouth shut.’
‘I think it’s a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you,’ McConnell told President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, during a Trump campaign live stream. ‘You had your shot, you were there for eight years. I think the tradition that the Bush’s set up — of not critiquing the president who comes after you — is a good tradition.’
His comments come after Obama described the Trump administration’s coronavirus response ‘an absolute chaotic disaster’ during a private call on Friday with people who worked for him in the White House. The critique marked a rare break in custom for Obama who has occasionally criticized Trump — such as when he ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and in the wake of the President’s first travel ban executive order.” — CNN, 12 May 2020.
Trump administration policy changes or actions are done in May are sparse; no worries though — the Trump administration is using its time wisely to urge “the United Nations secretary-general to remove any references to reproductive health, including abortions, from the UN’s humanitarian response plan to the coronavirus pandemic to ‘avoid creating controversy.’”
Fortunately, our resident expert Dr. Fauci was optimistic — when asked about a vaccine, he replied: “It’s not happening.”
“COVID-19 remains an ongoing threat and the U.S. has just reached a tragic milestone in the pandemic that may not get much attention. The COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. has now passed 340 per million residents, just over 100 times the rate in China.
Let that sink in: The death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. is 100 times greater than it is in China, where the virus first emerged in humans and where the Trump Administration claims the blame should lie for letting the pandemic get out of hand.
And it’s not just China that kept its death rate low. Austria, Germany, and Greece have significantly lower per-capita mortality rates than the U.S. In the East Asia and Pacific region, Australia, Hong Kong, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand were all able to keep their COVID-19 fatalities below 7 deaths per million residents. Vietnam, with a population of 96 million, has suffered no reported deaths at all. Countries that acted early and effectively on the available information were able to avoid the worst of the pandemic.” — Time, 10 June 2020.
Now, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, and the rest of the administration were beginning to feel the heat. Suddenly China’s draconian lockdown measures seemed reasonable, and contact tracing combined with massive testing cut deaths to minimal amounts across East Asia and the Pacific. Europe, too, was on the downswing in the number of active cases.
Heads had to roll, and first came the White House “Coronavirus Testing Czar”: Adm. Brett Giroir “told a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS that he would be “demobilized” from his role overseeing coronavirus testing at FEMA in a few weeks and going back to his regular post at the Department of Health and Human Services,” reported by NPR.
Kushner, on the other hand, had other matters to attend to. After praising law-enforcement officials for “embracing reform and ‘coming together to fix’ policing after hearing the ‘cries from the community, Trump then thanked Kushner and called him ‘my star.’”
“To understand how Jared Kushner received the opportunity to fail at managing the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic, you mostly need to know that he is married to the president’s daughter.” — The New Republic, 9 June 2020.
“On Friday, July 31, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, which is investigating the federal response, will hold a hearing to examine the ‘urgent need’ for a comprehensive national plan, at which Dr. Fauci, CDC director Robert Redfield, and Admiral Brett Giroir will testify. Among other things, the subcommittee is probing whether the Trump administration sought to suppress testing, in part due to Trump’s claim at his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally in June that he ordered staff to “slow the testing down.”
The gamble that son-in-law real estate developers, or Morgan Stanley bankers liaising with billionaires, could effectively stand in for a well-coordinated federal response has proven to be dead wrong. Even the smallest of Jared Kushner’s solutions to the pandemic have entangled government agencies in confusion and raised concerns about illegality.” — Vanity Fair.
This brings us to today. Trump has shifted his stance to a “more sober” viewpoint in the last month; he wore a face mask on a photo he tweeted out this week. Perhaps he is afraid of losing his voter base, either to Covid-19 or his administration’s dismal response to it. His polls numbers are, in his own words, “Sad!”
Whether or not you believe Kushner blocked a federal response to Covid-19 assuming Democratic strongholds would be hit the strongest is up to you. Regardless, it turns out nepotism, egregious ineptitude, and a deadly pandemic don’t mix.
A shame we needed 156,000+ American lives to relearn that lesson.