President Donald Trump's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the focus of an in-depth New York Times report published online on Saturday.
The 5,000-word exposé features five names on the byline: Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and David E. Sanger.
It focuses on how decisions made in the White House in April are responsible for the surge in coronavirus cases in July.
"Each morning at 8 as the coronavirus crisis was raging in April, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, convened a small group of aides to steer the administration through what had become a public health, economic and political disaster. Seated around Mr. Meadows’s conference table and on a couch in his office down the hall from the Oval Office, they saw their immediate role as practical problem solvers," the newspaper reported.
"But their ultimate goal was to shift responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic from the White House to the states. They referred to this as 'state authority handoff,' and it was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country — perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations," The Times explained.
"Over a critical period beginning in mid-April, President Trump and his team convinced themselves that the outbreak was fading, that they had given state governments all the resources they needed to contain its remaining 'embers' and that it was time to ease up on the lockdown," the newspaper reported. "In doing so, he was ignoring warnings that the numbers would continue to drop only if social distancing was kept in place, rushing instead to restart the economy and tend to his battered re-election hopes."
The expose focused on the fallout from the April decisions.
"The real-world consequences of Mr. Trump’s abdication of responsibility rippled across the country," the newspaper noted. "By early June, it was clear that the White House had gotten it wrong."
April and May were the turning point.
"Digging into new data from Dr. Birx, they concluded the virus was in fact spreading with invisible ferocity during the weeks in May when states were opening up with Mr. Trump’s encouragement and many were all but declaring victory," the newspaper reported. "With the benefit of hindsight, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, acknowledged this week in a conversation with the Journal of the American Medical Association that administration officials — himself included — severely underestimated infections in April and May. He estimated they were missing as many as 10 cases each day for every one they were confirming."
Read the full report.