Behind Trump's Botched And Delayed Coronavirus Response
- 2020-04-12 13:38
- By huffpost.com
Interviewed at Davos, a gathering of global elites in the Swiss Alps, the president on Jan. 22 played down the threat posed by the respiratory virus from China, which had just reached American shores in the form of a solitary patient in Washington state. Urgent warnings were ignored by a president consumed by his impeachment trial and intent on protecting a robust economy that he viewed as central to his reelection chances. Twenty current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House were interviewed for this account about the critical weeks lost before the president spoke to the nation on Feb. 26. On New Year’s Eve, China informed the World Health Organization of a “mysterious pneumonia outbreak” spreading through Wuhan, an industrial city of 11 million. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, was alerted to the virus around the same time — and within two weeks was fearful it could bring global catastrophe. Matthew Pottinger, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, persistently urged more aggressive action in calling out China and sending teams there. Moreover, the president was in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial and focused on little else, punctuating nearly every White House meeting with complaints about the Democrats out to get him, grievances he would continue late into the night on the phone from his private quarters. Trump also had little desire to pressure Beijing or criticize its president, Xi Jinping, with whom he wanted to secure cooperation on ending a yearlong trade war before the reelection campaign kicked into high gear. Even as the virus spread across the globe, prevailing voices in the White House, including senior adviser Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, urged the president to avoid big steps that could roil financial markets. Trump stewed about the collapse on his Feb. 26 flight back to Washington and lashed out at aides over comments made by a top CDC official, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, during a briefing the prior day, when she warned Americans that they would have to prepare for fairly severe social distancing.