'We were flabbergasted': New report says Jared Kushner's conduct stunned attendees at a COVID-19 meeting
When Jared Kushner was grilled by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this week, the White House senior adviser vigorously defended President Donald Trump on a range of issues — including the president’s widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic. Kushner has played a key role in that response: he was put in a charge of a private sector-oriented coronavirus task force that was separate from the White House task force with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.
And in a lengthy, in-depth article for Vanity Fair, Katherine Eban revealed some explosive details of Kushner’s coronavirus response, focusing heavily on a meeting on Friday, March 20.
Kushner was present at that meeting, which was attended by “a large group of officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency — people one attendee described as ‘the doers’ — to strategize how best to replenish the nation’s depleted reserves of PPE."
Kushner, Eban reports, had a “confrontational tone” when he told attendees, “The federal government is not going to lead this response,” he announced. “It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do.”
When one of the attendees expressed concerns about PPE shortages, Kushner said, “Free markets will solve this. That is not the role of government.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Eban notes, was desperate for supplies — and Kushner’s response was, “Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer, and that’s their problem.” And one of the attendees told Vanity Fair, “That’s when I was like, ‘We’re screwed.’”
According to Eban, “What actually transpired in the room stunned a number of those in attendance. Vanity Fair has reconstructed the details of the meeting for the first time, based on recollections, notes, and calendar entries from three people who attended the meeting. All quotations are based on the recollections of one or more individual attendees.”
Kushner, according to one of the attendees Vanity Fair interviewed, became “very aggressive” and told the group they “only understood how entrepreneurship works, but didn’t understand how government worked.”
Another attendee told Vanity Fair it was “very clear” that Kushner wasn’t interested in finding a solution to the shortages because in March, COVID-19 was primarily hurting blue states. According to that attendee, “We were flabbergasted. I basically had an out-of-body experience: where am I, and what happened to America?”
Eban goes on to describe some of the subsequent problems with Kushner’s coronavirus response, including plans for Eastman Kodak to manufacture drugs needed during the pandemic.
“Of all the aborted efforts to secure America’s supply chain of essential lifesaving supplies,” Eban writes, “no deal has blown up more spectacularly than the one to turn an aging camera film company, Eastman Kodak, into an American manufacturer of ingredients for low-cost generic drugs.”
According to Eban, “Vanity Fair has learned, Eastman Kodak was so untested when it came to making drug ingredients that the company’s head of government relations, Kristin Calabrese Williams, wrote to a government health official in March saying that the company would need a ‘waiver from the FDA’s requirements’ to ensure drug safety.”