(CNN) — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, boasted in mid-April about how the president had excluded doctors and scientists advising him on the developing coronavirus pandemic. Those comments came when more than 40,000 Americans had already died from the virus, which was ravaging New York City.
In an interview recorded on April 18, Kushner told legendary journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was “taking control of the country from doctors” in what he called a “negotiated settlement.” Kushner also proclaimed that the United States was rapidly passing through the “panic phase” and “pain phase” of the pandemic, and that the country was in “the beginning of the return phase.”
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of pain yet and there isn’t going to be pain for a while, but basically that’s the way it was, now we’ve established rules for going back to work,” Kushner said. “Trump is now in command again. There are no doctors, “he said.
A political strategy
The statement reflected a political strategy. Rather than follow the advice of health experts, Trump and Kushner focused on what would help the president on Election Day. According to their calculations, Trump would be the “president of the opening.”
CNN has obtained the audio of two separate interviews with Kushner, which were conducted in April and May as part of Woodward’s reporting for his book “Rage.” In the broad conversations, Kushner described the president’s relationship with his public health advisers in confrontational terms.
Kushner was also dismissive of party politics. He called the Republican Party “a collection of a bunch of tribes” and described the Republican platform as “a document meant to basically piss people off.” Kushner told Woodward that Trump made a “complete hostile takeover” of the Republican Party when he became its presidential candidate.
He also told Woodward that “the most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots.” And that Trump had replaced them with “more thoughtful people who know their place.”
Kushner’s comments on the administration’s handling of the pandemic underscore the extent to which Trump and Kushner downplayed the public health crisis even while it was in full swing last spring.
The advance of the pandemic while Jared Kushner spoke with Woodward
At that time, positive cases in the United States regularly reached about 30,000 per day. On April 15, three days before Kushner’s interview, deaths from covid-19 reached their all-time high of more than 2,600 per day. And hospitalizations for the virus also hit their first peak, nearly reaching 60,000 over several days in April. During this period, New York was still bearing the brunt of the virus and the deadly waves had not yet swept through the South and Midwest.
Jared Kushner’s comments reflect what many health experts say is at the heart of the government’s flawed approach to the pandemic: a premature push to reopen the country and marginalize medical professionals that led to waves of new infections over the summer. and record cases this fall.
“It was almost as if Trump was taking control of the country from the doctors and taking it back. Right? ”Kushner told Woodward on April 18. “In the sense that what he did now was, you know, he will own the opening,” he explained.
The latest figures
Kushner’s comments from six months ago seem particularly damning as the United States experiences a wave of record-breaking infections again. The country added 73,240 new cases on Tuesday, and a record peak of more than 83,000 cases was reported on Friday.
The increase in cases has been closely followed by an increase in deaths from coronavirus.
This month, 11 states reported their highest day of new deaths since the pandemic began. And while researchers are moving towards a vaccine, it is expected to take months before one becomes widely available. And health experts have warned that the population must take the virus seriously in the meantime.
“If we continue with our current behavior, by the time we start going down the other side of the curve, half a million people will have died,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said Tuesday.
Since October began, 29 states in the United States have reported at least one day of record new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The responsibility of the governors
Kushner also described to Woodward the political calculations for the president. Instead of proposing a federal plan to fight the virus, Trump left that responsibility to governors. In his April 18 interview, Jared Kushner described how he believed Trump had prepared to reap the political benefits of a successful containment of the virus while ensuring that state governors, and not the president, were to blame for whatever. failure to stop the spread.
“The states have to own the evidence,” Kushner said. “The federal government should not own the evidence. And the federal government shouldn’t own the rules. It must depend on the governors, because that is how the federalist system works, “he said.
He continued: “But the president is also very politically intelligent with the way he had that fight with the governors to say basically, ‘no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because, again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country to be open. But if it is opened the wrong way, the question will be: did the governors follow the guidelines that we established or not?
Jared Kushner says Trump is an ‘cheerleader’ for the economy
In a second interview with Woodward on May 8, Kushner insisted that one of Trump’s jobs to boost the economy was to be a “cheerleader.” Kushner referred to this as nurturing “market psychology.”
“So if you basically say this is going to come back in the fall, don’t prepare, then people won’t hire again, people will still be unemployed,” Kushner told Woodward. And if you’re planning for the worst-case scenario, that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of the things the president is great at is that he is an entertainer. He’s trying to make people feel good about the outcome, ”he added.
The president himself supported Kushner speaking to Woodward for “Rage,” according to another audio clip obtained by CNN, calling him “a smart person.”
“I told Jared to talk to you, and I think he has,” Trump told Woodward on February 19. Trump said he asked Kushner to coordinate with other members of the administration “so Bob can talk to whoever he wants.” Jared will handle it. A very capable guy, Jared. You can’t get people like that, ”he said.
Jared Kushner’s criticism of the Republican Party
Speaking to Woodward, Jared Kushner also expressed his contempt for the Republican Party and praised his father-in-law’s insurgent takeover of the Republican Party.
“I’m saying he basically did a complete hostile takeover of the Republican Party,” he said on April 18. And I don’t think it’s so much about the problems. I think it’s about attitude, “he added.
Calling political parties a “collection of tribes,” Jared Kushner dismissed Republican activists who help craft the party’s platform for political ideas and aspirations for not being in contact with regular voters.
“You know, parties as they get older tend to seek to be more exclusive than inclusive,” Kushner reflected. And so, you know, look at the GOP platform, it’s a document meant to piss people off basically. Because it is made by activists, “he added.
Months later, during its national convention, the Republican Party refused to update its platform. Instead, he decided to re-adopt the platform from 2016.
Activists and ‘overconfident idiots’
Kushner’s disdain also extended to administration officials and advisers who had previously frustrated the president during his tenure, people Kushner describes as “overconfident idiots.”
“We’ve gotten rid of a lot of overconfident idiots,” he told Woodward. “And now you have many more thoughtful people who know their place and know what to do,” he added.
In “Rage,” Woodward writes that he believed Jared Kushner was referring to former cabinet members and advisers James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Gary Cohn. In a September interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Kushner claimed that Woodward “mischaracterized him” and denied calling the three men “overconfident idiots.”
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