U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.
March 23, 2020
New York Times
President Trump told a group of governors Monday morning that they should not wait for the federal government to fill the growing demand for respirators needed to help people diagnosed with coronavirus.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times.
“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
The suggestion surprised some of the governors, who have been scrambling to contain the outbreak and are increasingly looking to the federal government for help with equipment, personnel and financial aid.
March 16, 2020
New York Times
The acting director of national intelligence imposed a hiring freeze and ordered a review of the agency’s personnel and mission, officials announced Thursday, an effort that some intelligence officers viewed as politically motivated.
Though some Republicans have viewed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence skeptically and sought to scale it back, the timing of the review by the acting director, Richard Grenell — after President Trump’s downsizing of the National Security Council staff — caused concern inside the nation’s intelligence agencies. Some current and former officials said they saw the effort as an attempt to oust intelligence officers who disagreed politically with Mr. Trump.
Those officials questioned why Mr. Grenell, in the job temporarily, would undertake a large-scale reorganization, particularly one that previous directors had considered but put aside. Mr. Trump has nominated Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, for the director post, though the Senate has not set a date for his confirmation hearing. […]
The proposals remain in early stages, though Mr. Grenell has signaled that he wants to move quickly because his time in office is limited.
Kashyap Patel, an aide in the director’s office who was transferred last month from the White House, is involved in the review, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Patel was a former aide to Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, who has long argued that the intelligence office should be pared back.
March 12, 2020
National Public Radio
The Trump administration and health officials knew back in January that this coronavirus was going to be a major threat. They knew that tests needed to be distributed across the country to understand where there might be outbreaks. But across the month of February, as my colleague David Lim at Politico first reported, the tests that they sent out to labs across the country simply did not work. They were coming back with errors.
The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, recognized that and promised that new tests would be distributed soon. But one day turned into two days turned into three days turned into several weeks, and in the meantime, we know now coronavirus was silently spreading in different communities, like Seattle. By the time that the Trump administration made a decision to allow new tests to be developed by hospitals by clinical laboratories, it was a step that was seen as multiple weeks late. And now as we talk in March, there are concerns that maybe there aren’t enough materials to keep producing tests down the line – so a series of planning failures and missed opportunities to really get ahead of a problem. […]
I don’t use this word lightly, Terry, but I’d say that this testing failure and the broader response to the coronavirus has been a catastrophe. The reasons it is a catastrophe, some are on the Trump administration itself; some are simply bureaucratic breakdowns. And if I’m apportioning blame – in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to tell at all times who made what decision when, but certainly, the Trump administration failed to plan for this moment. There were leadership failures, like failing to think through the implications of not having a testing strategy in place. There were leadership failures in allowing feuds to fester for months and months that – in the middle of a crisis, those cracks have widened and caused delays in making simple decisions. […]
When President Trump went on air and did a press conference talking about his concern over the, quote, “numbers” and didn’t want a cruise ship with infected Americans to necessarily dock and have the passengers evacuated because he was worried about the numbers, it was a remarkable statement for a president to say. The president has been obsessed with the numbers, obsessed with the optics of how this looks, which is not what you want the U.S. president to be focused on. The president’s decisions on coronavirus, Terry, are, I think, an outgrowth of how he has approached government the past three years. There were so many ticking time bombs that never actually exploded, crises that were averted because either the economy was sailing along, the president’s tweets were papered over. But now we are in a crisis moment where these decisions matter. […]
[…] Secretary Azar has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen. My understanding is he did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear – the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.
March 12, 2020