For months since the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, the Trump administration’s ignorance and obvious lack of preparedness have been called into question. But a new investigation shows something even more sinister going on behind the scenes. According to new reporting by Vanity Fair, senior adviser Jared Kushner headed up a special task force that was focused on putting together a comprehensive national testing plan — something we still badly need, given that 155,000 people have died of the virus in the U.S. But the plan never saw the light of day, reportedly because members of the task force thought it wouldn't help Trump with his reelection.
Sources said that Trump feared more testing would lead to higher case counts and bad publicity. Even worse, though, is that members of Kushner’s team expressed that the reigning sentiment was that coronavirus had hit blue states the hardest, therefore a national plan was not only unnecessary, but wouldn’t make sense for the Trump administration politically.
"The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy," a source described as a "public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force" told Vanity Fair.
And that’s exactly what Trump has done. In April, officials from the administration and Trump advisers told Politico that the president was purposefully pointing the finger at specific governors to blame the pandemic on their poor response in a bid to win in November. If he could critique the way blue states were handling the crisis, Trump thought he could distract from his own lack of proper response to the outbreak.
The original national response plan called for massive coordinated distribution of test kits across the country as well as standardized data mandates, and experts said that such a comprehensive plan could have put the country in a better position. But this was never about protecting people’s health for Trump — and always about vanity.
Concerned about looking tough and making a statement about how little he was worried about the virus in order to appeal to his base, the president also flip-flopped between being anti-mask and then all of a sudden going out in public wearing one. His refusal to wear a mask or to encourage others to do so put people’s lives in danger, and while it may have appealed to some of his supporters, that strategy now seems to be backfiring, too.
Now, President Trump is losing his grip as cases surge all across the country, not just in blue states. Red states like Arizona are seeing serious upticks in cases, and many Republican governors have continued to make mask mandates as the pandemic surges. And so, we are now seeing red states turning away from Trump as well. As he lags behind former VP Joe Biden in the polls and falls behind in fundraising, it looks like his strategy hasn't worked out so well.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement about the Vanity Fair article, calling its premise "entirely false." She once again touted the U.S. as leading the world in coronavirus testing.
McEnany also disputed the assertion that Kushner's plan was stopped for political reasons. "Our testing strategy has one goal in mind — delivering for the American people — and is being executed and modified daily to incorporate new facts on the ground."
This is all coming to light just as the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus investigates the federal response and examines if the Trump administration has purposely tried to suppress testing. Today, a hearing will be held to discuss the urgent need for a more comprehensive national plan — and Trump's already sagging reputation may fall even lower for failing to act, with the option to blame Democrats no longer on the table.