Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Widely Known

A few moments after the Trump campaign event of April Fool's Day began:
Evidently, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut would like a word with you, Mr. Trump, with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent reporting

“On February 5th, I sat in a meeting with top administration officials as Senators pressed them to request emergency funding to hire staff and stockpile supplies for the coming crisis,” Murphy tweeted. “They said they had it covered. Didn’t need any additional funding.”

It turns out there’s a lot more to the story than this. Murphy told me in an interview that there were repeated briefings throughout the early weeks of the crisis. In them, lawmakers — in both parties, though Democrats were more vocal — insistently sounded the alarm, to no avail.

“That briefing was chilling to me,” Murphy recalled about the Feb. 5 meeting. “It was crystal clear that the administration was not taking this seriously.” As it happens, Murphy tweeted this at the time too, which shows this isn’t just convenient hindsight talking.

Murphy told me that in that briefing — which was attended by two leading officials, Anthony S. Fauci and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — numerous lawmakers demanded to know why the administration wasn’t asking Congress for funding for medical supplies.

“Their position was that this wasn’t the moment to start panicking, staffing up and buying supplies,” Murphy continued.

Crucially, several lawmakers were already telling administration officials that “our local public health systems were fundamentally just not ready,” Murphy told me. “States were beginning to grapple with some of the most thorny questions, and it was clear the administration didn’t understand the scope of what was going to be necessary.”

Murphy said the strong impression administration officials left was that they “just didn’t think that it was ultimately the federal government’s responsibility to solve the problem.”

“I wouldn’t say they were trying to whitewash the problem,” Murphy continued. “I think they felt like they needed to check the box and communicate to Congress that they were working on the problem. But they didn’t seem to have any handle on how big it was.”

Troublingly, Murphy added that there were regular briefings (around half a dozen) from administration officials to senators and committees during the early weeks, but “their alarm never was consistent with what many of us believed to be the size of the threat.”

There was a point at which administration officials did seem to start panicking, Murphy noted, which coincided with the push for the numerous funding packages for equipment and economic rescue efforts that ultimately did pass Congress.

They knew. Trump knew. Alex Azar and even the sainted Dr. Fauci knew.  But Donald Trump, partially at the urging of Steve Bannon, came into the presidency to deconstruct government. Trump wanted to defenestrate and emasculate government. He has succeeded and we're reaping the whirlwind.

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