Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense 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,” said the expert.
July 30, 2020
The secret, and legally dubious, acquisition of those test kits was the work of a task force at the White House, where Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser, has assumed a sprawling role in the pandemic response. That explains the “WH” on the invoice. While it’s unclear whether Kushner himself played a role in the acquisition, improper procurement of supplies “is a serious deal,” said a former White House staffer. “That is appropriations 101. That would be not good.”
Though Kushner’s outsized role has been widely reported, the procurement of Chinese-made test kits is being disclosed here for the first time. So is an even more extraordinary effort that Kushner oversaw: a secret project to devise a comprehensive plan that would have massively ramped up and coordinated testing for COVID-19 at the federal level.
July 30, 2020
Under intense White House pressure, Senate Republicans agreed Monday to allocate $1.75 billion in their coronavirus relief bill toward the construction of a new D.C. headquarters for the FBI.
But top Senate Republicans immediately began distancing themselves from the provision after it was made public, saying they weren’t sure why the White House repeatedly insisted on putting it in the bill.
In calling for a new “Washington, DC headquarters facility,” the provision reflects President Trump’s ongoing interest in building a new headquarters for the FBI downtown, rather than a secure campus in the suburbs that was envisioned before he took office.
At a news conference Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) initially denied that the FBI money was in the bill, but then was notified by reporters that the language was in fact included. […]
While there is wide agreement in both parties that the FBI needs a new headquarters, Trump’s decision shortly after taking office to cancel an advanced plan to build a suburban campus and press for a new downtown location has flummoxed congressional leaders, with some Democrats accusing him of acting in his own self-interest.
July 27, 2020
The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all Covid-19 patient information to a central database in Washington beginning on Wednesday. The move has alarmed health experts who fear the data will be politicized or withheld from the public.
The new instructions were posted recently in a little-noticed document on the Department of Health and Human Services website. From now on, the department — not the C.D.C. — will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.
Officials say the change will streamline data gathering and assist the White House coronavirus task force in allocating scarce supplies like personal protective gear and remdesivir, the first drug shown to be effective against the virus. But the Health and Human Services database that will receive new information is not open to the public, which could affect the work of scores of researchers, modelers and health officials who rely on C.D.C. data to make projections and crucial decisions.
“Historically, C.D.C. has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak,” said Jen Kates, the director of global health and H.I.V. policy with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
“How will the data be protected?” she asked. “Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the C.D.C. in understanding the data?”
News of the change came as a shock at the C.D.C., according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Michael R. Caputo, a Health and Human Services spokesman, called the C.D.C.’s system inadequate and said the two systems would be linked. The C.D.C. would continue to make data public, he said.
July 14, 2020