Americans At World Health Organization Transmitted Real-Time Information About Coronavirus To Trump Administration
Karen DeYoung, Lena H. Sun and Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, April 19, 2020
More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials.Also:
A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said.
The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump's assertion that the WHO's failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States. ...
[T]he president, who often touts a personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and is reluctant to inflict damage on a trade deal with Beijing, appears to view the WHO as a more defenseless target.
In a statement provided to The Washington Post after online publication of this article, Caitlin B. Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed that in January, HHS had 17 staff members, including 16 from the CDC, at the WHO, "working on a variety of programs, including covid-19 and Ebola."
President's Intelligence Briefing Book Repeatedly Cited Virus Threat
Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, April 27, 2020
U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.U.S. Intelligence Reports From January And February Warned About A Likely Pandemic
The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President's Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president's attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.
For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus's spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion's transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.
But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material. ...
Trump spent much of February publicly playing down the threat while his administration failed to mobilize for a major outbreak by securing supplies of protective equipment, developing an effective diagnostic test and preparing plans to quarantine large portions of the population.
Trump insisted publicly on Feb. 26 that the number of cases "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero" ...
In reality, the virus was by then moving swiftly through communities across the United States, spreading virtually unchecked in New York City and other population centers until state governors began imposing sweeping lockdowns ...
As late as March 10, Trump said: "Just stay calm. It will go away." The next day, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
By then, officials said, the warnings in the PDB and other intelligence reports had taken on the aspect of an insistent drumbeat.
Shane Harris, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, March 20, 2020
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. ...
Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Intelligence agencies "have been warning on this since January," said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.
"Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn't get him to do anything about it," this official said. "The system was blinking red."