President Donald Trump and his administration have faced criticism for being slow to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly when it comes to testing efforts. A new report from the Financial Times sheds light on the topic, saying that Trump was reportedly convinced early on by his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that testing was a bad idea.
Earlier this week, Trump appeared before a banner that touted the U.S. for leading the world in testing, a claim that some critics say is inaccurate. Meanwhile, Kushner said that the Trump administration had responded well to the pandemic and predicted that the country would be back to normal by the summer.
But early on, some argue that Trump didn’t take testing seriously. On March 6, Trump visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a show that his administration had the situation well in-hand. In the days following, he famously said on several occasions that the virus would fade out. He also claimed that anyone who needed testing would be able to access it shortly; a statement that proved to be inaccurate.
Now, an insider reveals that part of the president’s seeming hesitancy to focus on testing is the result of urging by Kushner, who reportedly worried that a focus on access to tests and ventilator manufacturing would send the wrong message and cause the markets to crash.
Back in March, Kushner’s advice held more weight with the president than the messages coming from experts, an anonymous source inside the White House said.
“Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it,” the insider said. “That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.”
Detractors say that the coronavirus is the crisis of Trump’s tenure in the office, much like 9/11 was for George W. Bush.
Gregg Gonsalves, a public health scholar at Yale University, criticized Trump’s apparent inaction.
“It is as though we knew for a fact that 9/11 was going to happen for months, did nothing to prepare for it and then shrugged a few days later and said, ‘Oh well, there’s not much we can do about it,'” Gonsalves said. “Trump could have prevented mass deaths and he didn’t.”
Another insider said that it has been difficult to give Trump advice. The source claimed it was like “bringing fruits to the volcano.”
Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump adviser and head of communications in the White House, claimed that the people around the president are forced to flatter him, prove their loyalty, and bolster his ego, something critics say Kushner does.