White House trade adviser circulated coronavirus warnings inside the administration, even as he assured the public that everything was under control.
Navarro circulated two memos within the White House in late January and February warning that a full-blown outbreak could devastate the U.S., but he continued going on television to present a much more rosy outlook, reported CNN’s KFile.
His Jan. 29 memo warned COVID-19 could infect up to 100 million Americans and kill “as many as 1-2 million souls,” but he made no mention of those dire predictions when he went on CNBC that same day to promote the USMCA trade agreement.
“Well, we have a really strong leadership with (Health and Human Services) Secretary (Alex) Azar and the CDC,” Navarro said in response to a question about COVID-19’s potential impact on the trade pact. “We’re working very carefully and diligently on this, so, well, let’s see how this unfolds. This is not my lane per se, so I’m going to let others come on CNBC and inform that.”
Navarro defended his remarks about that appearance by reiterating that “a question about agricultural purchase commitments is clearly not my lane.”
His second memo, dated Feb. 23, called for immediate funding to “minimize economic and social disruption” — which he warned could cost millions of lives and drain trillions of dollars from the economy.
But that same day, on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Navarro assured host Maria Bartiromo the economy was not “particularly vulnerable to what happens in China” with the virus.
“With respect to the economic impacts, Maria, I think what we have learned, with President Trump’s tough stand on China, is that the American economy is extremely strong and not particularly vulnerable to what happens in China,” he said. “So we’re going to go about our business and try to get what we need in Trump time.”
Navarro again defended those previous remarks by parsing them.
“I was explicitly asked whether a slowdown in the China economy would harm the US economy and clearly responded ‘no’ because the US economy is not highly dependent on China,” Navarro said. “I was NOT asked either explicitly or implicitly about the potential impact of a pandemic on the US economy and any suggestion by CNN that my comments pertained in any way to the possible economic impacts of a possible pandemic is misleading and irresponsible.”
The next day, Feb. 24, Navarro assured a group of reporters was “nothing to worry about for the American people” under Trump’s leadership.
“Since the day that President Trump pulled down the flights from China to the U.S., he has been actively leading the situation in terms of this crisis with the task force. Nothing to worry about for the American people,” Navarro said.
“This country’s done a beautiful job under president’s leadership [sic] in terms of managing this situation,” he added. “He’s working on a daily basis with the task force and we’re taking steps to anticipate — what I like to say — where the puck’s gonna be. We’re skating there in defense of the American people and the American economy. So you can be sure you’re that in great hands with the Trump administration.”
Navarro also defended those remarks and attacked CNN for highlighting them against his recently revealed private warnings.
“‘Nothing to worry about’ indicates the American people should be confident in the strong leadership of President Trump handling the crisis, NOT the seriousness of the crisis itself,” Navarro said. “To suggest otherwise is simply mischief and fake news.”