CRITICAL MISTAKES’ IN TRUMP-ERA PANDEMIC RESPONSE
Top advisers to former President Trump used private emails to warn of the government’s “critical mistakes” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, even as the president was downplaying the severity of the virus, according to emails obtained by the House coronavirus subcommittee and released Tuesday.
Steven Hatfill, a virologist who worked as an outside consultant for the Trump administration, privately warned White House trade director Peter Navarro at the end of February 2020 that the U.S. did not have any accurate sense of just how many people were infected with the virus.
“In truth we do not have a clue how many are infected in the USA. We are expecting the first wave to spread in the US within the next 7 days,” Hatfill wrote to Navarro on Feb. 29.
“This will be accompanied by a massive loss of credibility, and the Democratic accusations are just now beginning. This must be countered with frank honesty about the situation and decisive direct actions that are being taken and can be seen in the broadcast news.”
What happened next: Navarro sent a memo to President Trump the next day, warning that the government was not moving fast enough. He said there was “NO” downside in being overly cautious in the face of what could be a global pandemic. But Trump ignored it, and continued to downplay the severity of the virus.
Context: The Democrat-led House select committee on the coronavirus has been investigating political interference into the pandemic response by Trump and other officials. They have also been investigating Navarro, who after he was rebuffed by Trump, decided to pursue his own ad hoc strategy for procuring key medical supplies, pushing federal agencies to issue noncompetitive contracts.