The coronavirus response from the United States was delayed by at least six weeks because President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were too busy with settling the score after Trump's impeachment, reported Vanity Fair.
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) alluded to the president's failure when he blamed Trump for being "distracted" by the impeachment scandal.
"It came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment," said McConnell about the virus.
For months, Trump ignored experts trying to warn him about the coronavirus, an investigation by the New York Times revealed. As far back as 2017, Trump's administration was being cautioned about the readiness of the United States in the event of a pandemic.
A document from the office of the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ 2019 “Worldwide Threat Assessment” specifically warned of a disease like the coronavirus a full year before the crisis. That warning was ignored too.
This week it was revealed by the Washington Post that Trump's intelligence briefings had more than one dozen warnings in January and February about the coronavirus.
“We knew from the beginning...we were going to get cases in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Vanity Fair. “We knew we were in for a very serious problem.”
Trump ranted to his friends that doctors were all being alarmists and that the coronavirus crisis was "something Democrats and the media were doing to him."
“Trump was obsessed with Pelosi, Schiff, the media, just obsessed. He would say, ‘They’re using it against me!’" Vanity Fair cited a Republican in frequent contact with the administration. “It was unhinged.”
Trump decided to test his theory that it was all fake by watching Florida.
“Given the elderly population, if that took off, it would be a nightmare,” a person close to Trump told Vanity Fair.
An adviser than urged Trump to call Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and tell him to shutdown the beaches.
“Ron, what are you doing down there?” Trump reportedly said, according to someone briefed on the exchange.
“I can’t ban people from going on the beach,” DeSantis shot back.
“These pictures look really bad to the rest of the country,” Trump said.
“Listen, we’re doing it the right way,” DeSantis claimed.
Given Trump's dedication to Florida, recent decision to move to the state and desperation to win it in 2020, his protégé's handling of the crisis would be critical.
“I understand what you’re saying,” Trump caved in, telling DeSantis he could leave the beaches open.
Florida now has over 1,000 deaths in the state from the disease and over 32,000 cases. Out of the 21.48 million residents of Florida, only 368,651 people have been tested for the virus. That's less than 2 percent of the state. About a quarter of the state's population is over 60-years-old.
When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar begged him to act, Trump went off on e-cigarettes and vaping. COVID-19 isn't caused by vaping.
Trump's self-congratulatory attitude about shutting down flights from China, was opposed by Kushner because he thought it would bankrupt the economy, a source told Vanity Fair.
“Jared kept saying the stock market would go down, and Trump wouldn’t get reelected,” said one Republican briefed on the debate.
“Jared is running everything. He’s the de facto president of the United States,” said a former White House official.
Another prominent Republican agreed, saying, “Jared treats Mick like the help."
Trump then worked to downplay the crisis while he was in Davos for the World Economic Forum. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he told CNBC.
"Kushner’s princely arrogance had been a fixture in the West Wing since Trump’s inauguration," reported Vanity Fair. "Kushner can appear mild-mannered, but, like his father-in-law, he seemed to relish the power he derived from crushing adversaries. After Trump’s acquittal, Kushner helped orchestrate a purge of national security officials that testified against the president. According to a source, Kushner provided the White House’s 29-year-old personnel director, John McEntee, with a list of names to be fired."
"I told Jared that if Trump won a second term, he wouldn’t have to worry about running again and you can really help people," recalled a New York business executive who met with Kushner last fall. "Jared just looked at me and said, ‘I don’t care about any of that.’ I wanted to tell Jared you don’t say that part out loud, even in private.”
The business executive said he came away "shaken."
"Kushner had an enemies list as long as Trump’s, and at times it played into his response to the crisis. He scoffed when his old nemesis, Steve Bannon, launched a podcast called War Room: Pandemic in January," said Vanity Fair.
Kushner said, “Steve’s a dead man. Last he was seen, he was standing on the side of the FDR Drive with the squeegee guys,” recalled a Republican.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Bossert reportedly told Kushner in early March that the White House needed to step up the coronavirus response, though Bossert denies it. One person who spoke with Bossert at the time said that he tried to sound the alarm with Kushner but was ignored. He was ignored, so he wrote an op-ed, which Kushner called a mistake.
On Feb. 7, just 48-hours after Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial, "Trump launched his purge of career officials who testified in the House, including Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran and, for good measure, his twin brother, who also worked in the government."
This was his focus during the critical month Trump spent attacking Democrats, calling COVID-19 nothing more than a flu and downplaying the seriousness of the disease.