Then-assistant to the president Peter Navarro wrote an impassioned memo to Trump on March 1, 2020, recommending that the federal government boost the supply of protective gear for healthcare workers, rapidly develop diagnostic tests and vaccines, and bring manufacturing back to the United States. Navarro said he had urged the White House Coronavirus Task Force to move in “Trump time” to stay ahead of the virus but said the movement had been too slow.
“There is NO downside risk to taking swift actions as an insurance policy against what may be a very serious public health emergency,” Navarro told the president. “If the COVID-19 crisis quickly recedes, the only thing we will have been guilty of is prudence.”
The memo emerged yesterday as part of the investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
“These documents provide further evidence that the Trump administration failed to react quickly to the coronavirus pandemic in Spring 2020 despite urgent warnings, failed to implement a national strategy to alleviate critical supply shortages that were putting American lives at risk, and pursued a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement in which senior White House officials steered contracts to particular companies without adequate diligence or competition,” the Democratic members of the subcommittee said in a news release.
After Navarro sent him the memo, Trump continued to downplay the danger of the virus to the public and refused to mobilize a coordinated response to procure supplies, the release noted. In a March 19, 2020, news conference, Trump told reporters that the governors should manage their states’ individual responses to the virus’ spread. “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping,” Trump said. “You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”
The subcommittee also revealed what it called new evidence obtained since launching its investigation in July, saying White House officials “pursued an ineffective, ad hoc approach to supply contracts.” You can read more about it here.