A top adviser to Donald Trump privately pursued his own coronavirus response with little oversight after the former president ignored his warnings.
Congressional investigators released documents Wednesday showing that former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro urged the former president on March 1, 2020, to "MOVE IN 'TRUMP TIME'" to invest in drug-making ingredients, coronavirus tests and other supplies to fight the pandemic that was spreading out of control at the time, but then made his own side deals over the following months, reported the Washington Post.
"These documents provide further evidence that the Trump administration failed to react quickly to the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020 despite urgent warnings, failed to implement a national strategy to alleviate critical supply shortages that were putting American lives at risk, and pursued a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement in which senior White House officials steered contracts to particular companies without adequate diligence or competition," wrote Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC), chair of the House's select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.
At the time of Navarro's warning, there were 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. and just two deaths, and he began his own behind-the-scenes strategy to acquire needed supplies -- an effort about which Democratic lawmakers are asking the Biden administration to release documents the Trump administration had refused to turn over.
"There is NO downside risk to taking swift actions as an insurance policy against what may be a very serious public health emergency," Navarro wrote at the time. "If the covid-19 crisis quickly recedes, the only thing we will have been guilty of is prudence."
Navarro steered a $765 million loan to Eastman Kodak to produce drug-making ingredients, which was paused last year after lawmakers opened multiple probes into the deal, and he also got $354 million for a single-source contract with the startup Phlow to make pharmaceutical ingredients and $96 million single-source contract with AirBoss Defense Group for powered respirators and filters.
Phlow had never previously made drugs and was incorporated in January 2020, but won favor with Navarro by arguing the U.S. was too dependent on China, and the startup got the deal, which included $458 million more in contract options, after the trade adviser asked Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency to "please move this puppy in Trump time."
Navarro also steered nearly $100 million to AirBoss, where Trump-friendly retired Gen. Jack Keane was a paid consultant.