President Donald Trump denied having seen a memo from a senior US official warning of massive loss and economic devastation of the new coronavirus, months before the start of the pandemic causing thousands of deaths in the United States.
Trump said Tuesday he had not seen communications from the White House trade advisor, Peter Navarro at the end of January warning of the serious threat posed by coronavirus.
“I read it maybe one day, two days ago,” Trump said of the January 30 memo at a press conference. “It was a recommendation he had, I think he said to some of the staff, but it didn’t matter. I did not see her. “
Navarro, a Chinese hawk, sent a memo on January 30 to warn that the new coronavirus could create a pandemic and called for a travel ban for China, the New York Times reported. A second memo, written in late February and sent to the president, said it could kill up to two million Americans.
“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans helpless in the event of a large-scale coronavirus outbreak on American soil,” said one of Navarro’s messages.
“This lack of protection increases the risk that the coronavirus will develop into a full-blown pandemic, endangering the lives of millions of Americans. “
Trump has also redoubled his criticism of the World Health Organization for its management of the virus and has said that the United States will suspend funding to the United Nations agency. Pressed by the decision, Trump then said that he planned to do so rather than confirming that he would act on the threat.
The President continued to defend his actions at the onset of the crisis and downplayed the Navarro memos, the most direct warnings yet discovered at higher levels of the Trump administration.
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Navarro warned that the coronavirus crisis could cost trillions of US dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
“I don’t want havoc”
Trump said he was unaware of the memos but that he had unilaterally followed some of their recommendations, including taking steps to limit travel from China.
But he said he wouldn’t have wanted to act prematurely when you didn’t know how dire the situation would become.
“I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything in between. I’m not going to go out and start yelling, “It could happen, it could happen,” “said Trump. “I am a cheerleader for this country. “
Health experts have suggested that total weekly deaths will reach a new high in the United States this week. To date, more than 12,000 people have died from the virus in the United States, with approximately 370,000 confirmed infections.
Nearly 800 people died on Tuesday in New York State, the epicenter of the US crisis.
Jeremy Konyndyk, a former Obama administration official who wrote advice on health emergencies, said the memos made it clear that Trump and his officials had not taken action against the threat of the coronavirus.
He told Al Jazeera that the emergency guidelines were specific to a rapidly spreading respiratory illness and warned to “trigger the preparation.”
“It lists a number of things the administration should start doing: diagnostic tests; ensure PPE [personal protection equipment] there was enough supply; start planning for events with many victims – it was all in there, “said Konyndyk.
“It has not been taken into account and I think it is really not fair to blame WHO for our own lack of preparation. If they had followed this manual, they would have started to start on January 30. “
Former Vice President Joe Biden, a hopeful Democratic presidential candidate, castigated the President’s management of the pandemic.
“The coronavirus is not Donald Trump’s fault. But he is responsible for our response and takes his homework seriously, ”said Biden. “His failures and delays [are] causing real pain to so many Americans. “
Trump should use his powers under federal law to ensure the production of protective equipment for health workers, provide medical coverage to those who have lost him, and coordinate state efforts to procure supplies, said Biden Tuesday.
“Trump likes to say that he is president in wartime,” said Biden. “Well, he has to step up and act like that. “
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Trump has dismissed the Inspector General (IG) who was to oversee the government’s response to the $ 2.3 trillion coronavirus, an official bureau spokesperson said Tuesday, raising concerns in Congress over oversight of the rescue plan. .
It was the Republican president’s latest attack on federal watchdogs seeking to eliminate government waste, fraud and abuse after his withdrawal from the intelligence community’s IG on Friday, and his harsh criticism of against the person supervising the Ministry of Health and Human Affairs. Services.
Glenn Fine, the actor IG of The Department of Defense was appointed last week to chair a committee acting as a kind of watchdog on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, including health policy and the largest economic relief program of the history of the United States.
But Trump has since designated the Environmental Protection Agency’s IG like the new acting IG Pentagon, said a spokesperson.
Democrats in Congress have said that the dismissal of Mr. Fine, less than a week after his appointment, has strengthened their resolve to strictly monitor the massive spending last month to support the economy as the country grapples with disease.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi called it “part of a disturbing pattern of retaliation” by Trump.
“We will continue to monitor to ensure that this historic investment of taxpayers’ money is used wisely and efficiently,” she said in a statement.
Trump largely ignored a question on Fine’s dismissal, saying it was his prerogative.
“We have a lot of Obama era GIs. And, as you know, this is a presidential decision, “Trump told reporters.