On Feb 23, Trump was sent memo warning 2 million Americans could die from Covid https://t.co/2ZUooAyA41— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020
3 days later, Trump said, "we’re going to be pretty soon at only 5 people, and we could be at just 1 or 2 people over the next short period of time." pic.twitter.com/0O6IouQhJJ
Jonathan Swan and Margaret Talev, Axios, April 7, 2020:Trump was warned coronavirus could kill 2 million Americans. Three days later he said it was going away. https://t.co/tXOQGKF276— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon defended Navarro's motives, calling the memos "prophetic" and saying Navarro was forced to put his concerns in writing because "there was total blockage to get these facts in front of the President of the United States."Aaron Rupar, Vox, April 7, 2020:
The "naivete, arrogance and ignorance" of White House advisers who disagreed with Navarro "put the country and the world in jeopardy," Bannon said, adding that Navarro was sidelined from the task force after the memo.
"In this Kafkaesque nightmare, nobody would pay attention to him or the facts."
A February 23 memo labeled as a "MEMORANDUM TO PRESIDENT" sent through the National Security Agency, then-acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and the Covid-19 task force warns in its very first sentence that "[t]here is an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls."Maggie Haberman, New York Times, April 7, 2020:
Three days later, however, Trump held a news conference in which he suggested the coronavirus would soon go away on its own in the United States.
"When you have 15 [coronavirus cases], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done," Trump said.
On February 27, as the US confirmed case count stood at 15, Trump went even further, claiming of the coronavirus that "one day — it's like a miracle — it will disappear." Needless to say, the memo that was addressed to him four days earlier made no allowance for the miraculous.
The February 23 memo doesn't identify its author, but Axios reports that it was written by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. The document presciently advises the federal government to immediately invest $618 million in ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.
"This is the first line of defense for our health care workers and secondary workers in facilities such as elder care and skilled nursing," the memo says. "Key items include N-95 facemasks, goggles, gloves, Tyvek suits, ventilator circuits and Positive Air Press Respirators (PAPRs)."
Fast-forward 10 weeks and there are now hundreds of thousands of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and more than 10,000 dead. Shortages of PPE and ventilators have become major problems and a source of tension between Trump and state governors who have called on him to do more to obtain supplies.
But instead of heeding the February 23 warning that major investments in PPE and ventilators were needed, Trump dithered — and not just until there was a sudden uptick in confirmed cases in early March. The Associated Press's Michael Biesecker reported on Sunday that a review of federal purchasing contracts "shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers." ...
The February 23 memo was not the first White House document to warn that the coronavirus could be really bad. Axios also published a January 29 memo also authored by Navarro that advised "an immediate travel ban to China" and sounded the alarm about data indicating Covid-19 spreads more easily from person to person than the H1N1 flu or SARS. The memo estimated as many as 18 million Americans could be infected by the coronavirus, with 543,000 deaths. The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil. The lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans."
During a rally the next day in Des Moines, however, Trump downplayed the coronavirus threat, saying, "We think we have it very well under control." ...
The Navarro memos reveal the sheer brazenness of Trump's attempt to rewrite history. Instead of taking action, Trump engaged in wishful thinking until the spread of the virus was so out of control that many major population centers in the country were forced into a state of virtual lockdown. Hospitals, meanwhile, continue to struggle with resource shortages that the federal government did nothing to alleviate during the crucial period between January and early March.
Now, instead of misleading suggestions that the coronavirus will go away on its own, Trump has moved the goalposts dramatically. No longer are 15 cases a "good job" — instead, it's a far more ghastly number. "If we can hold [the number of US deaths] down, as we're saying, to 100,000, it's a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000 [deaths], we altogether have done a very good job," he said on March 30.
A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump's trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China's leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States. ...
Dated Jan. 29, it came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States, and he would later go on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome. ...
A second memo that Mr. Navarro wrote, dated Feb. 23, warned of an "increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1.2 million souls." [This is incorrect. The memo read "1-2 million", not "1.2 million". See below. Axios has posted jpgs of both memos.]
At that time, Mr. Trump was still downplaying the threat of the virus.