Former deputy national security adviser: Obama left a solid ‘global health infrastructure’ — and Trump shut it down

Former deputy national security adviser: Obama left a solid ‘global health infrastructure’ — and Trump shut it down
Ben Rhodes, MSNBC Screengrab

When the United States is confronting a crisis, President Donald Trump will often find a way to blame his predecessor, former President Barack Obama — even when it comes to coronavirus. But according to former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the Obama Administration left Trump with a solid “global health infrastructure” when Obama left office in January 2017.


Trump has been widely criticized for his slow response to coronavirus, which he dismissed as less deadly than the seasonal flu for weeks before finally acknowledging the severity of what the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared to be a global pandemic. When NBC News reporter Kristen Welk asked Trump during a March 13 press conference if he “takes responsibility” for the lack of coronavirus testing in the U.S., the president responded, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances — and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.” Never mind the fact that Obama has been out of office for three years.

Rhodes, who served in the Obama Administration, didn’t hesitate to call Trump out during an appearance on MSNBC. Obama’s former deputy national security adviser told MSNBC’s David Gura, “What he said about testing is just completely false. It’s been fact-checked; it’s not the case that this, in any way, should have hampered their response. I think, importantly, that what Obama did leave Trump was a global health infrastructure that we had set up, informed by the lessons of the Ebola outbreak. And what we did is set up in the White House — in the National Security Council — a directorate, an office that was responsible for managing pandemics, managing global health threats.”

Rhodes went on to say, “That was shut down two years ago by President Trump. And when you don’t have an office like that, you don’t have dedicated people inside the White House who are insuring that information is acted upon. When you see an outbreak in a place like Wuhan, China, you want people in the White House who are thinking about what needs to be done right away so that you don’t get behind the curve — which is what happened in this White House.”

Obama’s former deputy national security adviser explained that during the Ebola virus threat, his administration acted immediately.

“We deployed thousands of U.S. troops to Africa to help set up medical infrastructure to contain the outbreak before it could get to the United States,” Rhodes recalled. “President Trump, instead of turning to experts, turned to his Twitter feed and tried to just enough to get himself through the news cycle while not preparing the nation for what is necessary here.”

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