White House Questions Swirl: Why Wasn’t Outbreak Traced? Is ‘Herd Immunity’ Plan Now Policy?
The Washington Post reports that White House officials ended early attempts to investigate the spread of coronavirus within the Trump administration. And sources tell Daily Beast that advisers pushing the controversial "herd immunity" strategy have prevailed with President Donald Trump.
The Washington Post:
White House Called Off Investigation On Its Coronavirus Outbreak, Local Officials Say
Officials say the White House called off early efforts to get to the bottom of the outbreak, including sequencing the genomes of virus samples from infected individuals. This genetic analysis could have revealed shared mutations that linked cases in Washington and other affected communities. Had the administration done such an investigation, it would know whether infections among aides to Vice President Pence that were reported this past weekend bore the same genetic signature as earlier cases at the White House. That could indicate whether the virus was circulating among administration officials for weeks or had slipped through infection-control measures a second time. (Butler, Hamburger, Sun and Kaplan, 10/28)
Donald Trump’s COVID Advisers: He’s Now Pushing Herd Immunity
Despite publicly downplaying it, President Donald Trump and his team of White House advisers have embraced the controversial belief that herd immunity will help control the COVID-19 outbreak, according to three senior health officials working with the White House coronavirus task force. More worrisome for those officials: they have begun taking steps to turn the concept into policy. (Banco, 10/28)
An HHS ad campaign comes under more scrutiny —
‘Helping The President’: HHS Official Sought To Rebrand Coronavirus Campaign
The Trump appointee who steered a $300 million taxpayer-funded ad campaign to "defeat despair" about the coronavirus privately pitched a different theme last month: "Helping the President will Help the Country." That proposal, which came in a meeting between Trump administration officials and campaign contractors, is among documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee that further illustrate how political considerations shaped the massive campaign as officials rushed to get public service announcements on the air before Election Day. The committee shared the documents with POLITICO, which first detailed the campaign in a series of reports last month. (Diamond, 10/29)
The Washington Post:
Trump’s Coronavirus Ad Campaign To ‘Defeat Despair’ Excluded Celebrities Critical Of Him
A top Trump administration official inserted “partisan political interests” into a $250 million advertising contract awarded just weeks before the election to “defeat despair and inspire hope” amid the coronavirus pandemic — excluding celebrities seen as critical of President Trump or his policies, according to documents obtained by Democratic House lawmakers. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, three high-ranking Democrats wrote that documents showed that HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo sought to use a taxpayer-funded campaign to boost the president only weeks ahead of his reelection bid. During a September meeting, for instance, he proposed that one of the themes be “Helping the President will Help the Country,” according to one document they obtained from a contractor. (Abutaleb, 10/29)
In other Trump administration news —
Whatever Happened To Trump's 'Opening Up America Again' Task Force?
In April, as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country and lockdowns shuttered businesses, the White House assembled a reopening task force to advise on how to safely reopen the country and stabilize the economy. "I'm going to surround myself with the greatest minds," President Donald Trump said at a news conference announcing the formation of the Opening Up America Again industry group, which included corporate giants from Amazon to General Motors to Merck. "I'm going to have to make a decision. It's the biggest decision I've ever had to make," he added. (Miranda, 10/28)
Space Force's Second-In-Command Tests Positive For Coronavirus
Gen. David Thompson, the Space Force’s vice chief of space operations, has tested positive for COVID-19, the Air Force announced Wednesday. Thompson took the test after being informed that a close family member had contracted the virus, the Air Force said in a statement, adding that the Space Force official is now isolating and working from home. (Castronuovo, 10/28)
Kushner Told Woodward In April Trump Was 'Getting The Country Back From The Doctors'
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in April told journalist Bob Woodward that the country had progressed in its response to the coronavirus pandemic to the point where President Trump was "back in charge" and "getting the country back from the doctors." Kushner, who is also the president's son-in-law, told Woodward on April 18 that the country was moving into what he deemed the "comeback phase." The comments came one day after Trump tweeted out support for people protesting against coronavirus-related restrictions with calls to "liberate" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia. (Samuels, 10/28)