Like a 50’s rock station, the hits just keep on coming to Donald Trump, and it’s not even noon. James Clyburn chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. He displayed a chart comparing European countries, where the virus is contained, to the United States, where the virus is surging and called out Trump’s administration for its ineptitude. That, of course, incensed Trump, who then picked up his tweet box so he could show this uppity congressman a thing or two.
…..Our massive testing capability, rather than being praised, is used by the Lamestream Media and their partner, the Do Nothing Radical Left Democrats, as a point of scorn. This testing, and what we have so quickly done, is used as a Fake News weapon. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2020
Now, about that praiseworthy testing effort: Vanity Fair is reporting that in March, three weeks after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, a purchase of 3.5 million tests for an amount owed of $52 million was made to a client noted as “WH” and one million were delivered. The delivery, curiously, was not made to the White House, but rather to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates. But that becomes not so curious a fact when you find out that Jared Kushner was behind it.
The secret, and legally dubious, acquisition of those test kits was the work of a task force at the White House, where Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser, has assumed a sprawling role in the pandemic response. That explains the “WH” on the invoice. While it’s unclear whether Kushner himself played a role in the acquisition, improper procurement of supplies “is a serious deal,” said a former White House staffer. “That is appropriations 101. That would be not good.”
Though Kushner’s outsized role has been widely reported, the procurement of Chinese-made test kits is being disclosed here for the first time. So is an even more extraordinary effort that Kushner oversaw: a secret project to devise a comprehensive plan that would have massively ramped up and coordinated testing for COVID-19 at the federal level.
Yes, Virginia, there was a time when there was “an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan.” It’s not just a myth. And Jared Kushner, and his pals from college, compromised a vaunted “impact team” described as a “frat party descended from a UFO.”
Kushner believes that he is some kind of bureaucratic Jedi knight, imbued with remarkable powers of leadership coupled with philosophical insight. “I learned very early on that when you try to work around an existing government structure, it rarely works. You have to take the machinery that exists and empower it rather than recreate it.” And here’s another one, “The president also instructed me to make sure that I break down every barrier needed to make sure that teams can succeed,” Jared is our life coach, empowering us in our hour of need — in his head.
So Jared and the other Hardy Boys set about coordinating a national oversight system for supplies like masks, test kits, and the establishment of a widespread virus surveillance system. It’s been described as “not rocket science” and likened to a system such as Fedex or UPS, which only work as well as they do because all the dots are connected.
The deadline on this project was supposed to be the fall. But the plan just “went poof into thin air” and instead we got “miles-long lines of cars in scorching Arizona and Texas heat, their drivers waiting hours for scarce diagnostic tests, and desperate Sunbelt mayors pleading in vain for federal help.” So where did the best laid plans of mice and boys go astray? They worked “around the clock, and through a forest of WhatsApp messages,” but today America is looking at “a series of rebound epidemics that are highly consequential in a really deleterious way,” to quote Dr. Rajiv Shah, of the Rockefeller Foundation. That’s simple. Countries who have contained the virus have empowered scientists to take control, and we’ve got Jared and his frat brothers. And that’s where it all, predictably, and inexorably, went south.
The group’s collective lack of relevant experience was far from the only challenge it faced. The obstacles arrayed against any effective national testing effort included: limited laboratory capacity, supply shortages, huge discrepancies in employers’ abilities to cover testing costs for their employees, an enormous number of uninsured Americans, and a fragmented diagnostic-testing marketplace.
According to one participant, the group did not coordinate its work with a diagnostic-testing team at Health and Human Services, working under Admiral Brett Giroir, who was appointed as the nation’s “testing czar” on March 12. Kushner’s group was “in their own bubble,” said the participant. “Other agencies were in their own bubbles. The circles never overlapped.”
Nevertheless, a plan was in fact cobbled together to coordinate distribution of test kits, do contact-tracing, antibody testing, all of the sane things that the South Koreans or the Italians or anybody else who’s gotten a handle on the virus have done. But the plan “went poof” just as the coronavirus was supposed to go poof, because an analysis was made that blue states, being the most populous, were going to be the hardest hit, and that single fact gave Trump room for pause.
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.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that 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. [emphasis added]
So Trump decided early on to politicize the coronavirus, and you knew that. He’s never pretended to be a president for all the people, never even given lip service to it, as other presidents have in the past. And Jared Kushner decides who lives and who dies, in a nutshell. Not that that would be a novel situation. This is the man who headed to Saudi Arabia, with Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon, to sell nuclear start up kits. This is the man who said that Mohammad bin-Salman had “made missteps” but “was a good ally.” Oh, yes, we seem to recall that tiny faux pas where MBS had that journalist hacked up with a bone saw in the embassy.
What Trump or Kushner or the rest of them failed to foresee, apparently, because they were politically and not scientifically or medically motivated, is that red states might be less populous, but with the anti-masking movement in full swing, they were going to be hard hit. And we are now living to see the fruits of that prediction. Trump is killing his own people. How many need to die before they wake up?
The wheels can’t come off this decrepit and corrupt wagon fast enough. This family needs to be run out of town on a rail.