New York Times
On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!”
But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas J. Philipson, a senior economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than Mr. Philipson and other Trump administration advisers were signaling in public at the time.
The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.
The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark. “What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”
October 14, 2020
New York Times
Top White House officials are blocking strict new federal guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine, objecting to a provision that would almost certainly guarantee that no vaccine could be authorized before the election on Nov. 3, according to people familiar with the approval process. […]
The vaccine guidelines carry special significance: By refusing to allow the Food and Drug Administration to release them, the White House is undercutting the government’s effort to reassure the public that any vaccine will be safe and effective, health experts fear.
October 5, 2020
Two housekeepers assigned to the White House residence have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus and were asked to use “discretion” about discussing their diagnosis as the number of White House staffers with the virus continues to grow.
October 5, 2020
The health department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.
The ad blitz, described in some budget documents as the “Covid-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign,” is expected to lean heavily on video interviews between administration officials and celebrities, who will discuss aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and address the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, according to six individuals with knowledge of the campaign who described its workings to POLITICO. […]
The public awareness campaign, which HHS is seeking to start airing before Election Day on Nov. 3, was largely conceived and organized by Michael Caputo, the health department’s top spokesperson […] who has no medical or scientific background, claimed in a Facebook video on Sept. 13 that the campaign was “demanded of me by the president of the United States. Personally.” […]
But 10 current and former health officials told POLITICO that they have concerns about the campaign’s scope, goals and even how it has been funded — by pulling money out of health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control that are in the midst of fighting the pandemic, rather than working with lawmakers to set up a brand-new advertising effort with congressional oversight, or drawing on substantial internal resources and expertise in running health-related public service campaigns.
“CDC hasn’t yet done an awareness campaign about Covid guidelines — but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?” said Josh Peck, a former HHS official who oversaw the Obama administration’s advertising campaign for HealthCare.gov.
“It’s like every red flag I could dream of,” Peck added. […]
Some of Caputo’s frustrations about the way the pandemic has hurt Trump spilled into public view, particularly after the spokesman launched a new taxpayer-funded podcast at HHS in May.
“President Trump built the strongest economy in American history, and I think he’ll do it again,” Caputo said in the inaugural May 22 episode of the podcast. “They’ll defeat the virus, they’ll reopen the economy but who’s going to defeat the despair?”
September 25, 2020