Covering for his multiple failures to protect the American public from Covid-19, President Trump and his supporters have turned to their usual xenophobia and blaming of everyone else. It started early in the Trump administration with closures and defunding of key public health offices and cuts to critical public health needs. When Covid-19 emerged as a threat, the Trump administration underestimated it, downplayed it — indeed ridiculed it as a “hoax” — and wasted away critical time to prepare for the looming crisis.
When the crisis began to hit, the Trump administration was woefully unprepared, incapable and paralyzed to take appropriate action, leaving it in the hands of governors, lower level federal officials, non-federal research labs, and the goodwill of businesses across the nation. All the while, President Trump and supporters turned to xenophobia and blamed others for their incompetence and failures.
Compounding Trump’s failures to anticipate, prepare and stop the spread of Covid-19, it is notable what he has continued to do at the same time: build an ineffective border wall, elevate racial animosity toward foreigners, Chinese and Asian-Americans, illegally close down asylum at the Southern border, and shift blame to President Obama and regulations.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “The Trump Covid-19 failures have infected every aspect of American life. The list of failures is jaw-dropping. At the same time, what Trump has done that is grossly misplaced is to continue to build a wasteful wall rather than increase testing kits at border check points; continue his xenophobic blame game that has encouraged racial hatred against minority groups here at home; and refused to recognize the heroic contributions to fight the virus from front line workers, many of whom are immigrants and economically strapped.”
David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: “Trump infamously takes ‘no responsibility at all’ for his deplorable failure to take quick action against COVID-19 back in January. At a time when America cries out for leadership, Trump has instead spent his time blaming the media, the Democrats and, of course, immigrants. Panicking that his dangerous incompetence has now imperiled his re-election chances, Trump has doubled down the ugly rhetoric of 2016, ominously signaling that xenophobia, anti-immigrant hatred and racism will form the core of his 2020 platform.”
Below is a comprehensive resource of links to Trump administration failures and actions on Covid-19 and multiple efforts to deflect blame.
Trump Closed Key Public Health Offices & Cut Critical Funding
- In 2018, Trump shut down the White House National Security Council’s (NSC) global health security unit, firing NSC’s Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert followed by departures of key homeland security officials who were not replaced.
- In 2018, Trump cut Center for Disease Control’s global health section funding, in which most staff were laid off and the number of countries with CDC priority were lowered from 49 to 10. China was not among the 10 priority countries.
- In 2018, Trump cut the Complex Crises Fund, which was a $30 million emergency response pool in the event of a crisis.
- In mid-2019, the Trump administration defunded a U.S. official who was embedded in the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention who could have raised red flags earlier about the spread of Covid-19 in China.
- On February 5, 2020, HHS Secretary asks OMB for $2 billion for respirator masks, but OMB slashes budget to $500 million. Congress has no appropriated $16 billion.
- The President repeatedly asked Congress to cut the CDC’s budget, but Congress refused. Even as late as early March Trump’s budget chief was strenuously arguing for CDC budget cuts. Only now has the President changed position and retracted his CDC 2021 budget request.
Severely Underestimating the Fight Against Covid-19, Trump Asked for a Meager $1.25 Billion – Months into the Crisis – Which Congress Recognized Was Severely Inadequate, Appropriating $2 Trillion Over Next Few Weeks
- On February 24, Trump officially asked Congress for only $1.25 billion of additional funding to address Covid-19 which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called “completely inadequate.” Instead, Congress appropriated $8.3 billion to develop vaccines, protective gear, testing, and small business loan subsidies.
- A second bill passed in Congress weeks later with $100 billion for food assistance, unemployment insurance, Medicaid funding for state and local workers, free testing, reimbursements for businesses providing paid sick leave.
- A third bill passed in Congress last week, and signed into law by Trump on March 27, was a massive $2 trillion emergency spending bill; the largest in U.S. history. It provided a “tidal wave of cash to individual Americans, businesses and health care facilities all reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.” But the bill leaves out many immigrant workers, many of whom serve on the front lines of this pandemic.
Trump, His Administration and Supporters in Congress Knew of Covid-19 Significance as Early as December 2019 with the Severity of the Looming Crisis Increasing Week by Week
- The Wuhan provincial government in China confirmed on December 31, 2019 pneumonia cases of unknown cause.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began monitoring the situation in China late in 2019.
- World Health Organization issued a concerning situation report on Covid-19 on January 20, 2020, informing the public of a spreading virus around the world.
- Washington State reported the first Covid-19 case January 21, a man who had recently traveled to China.
- Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, shut down on January 23.
- The Guardian published video illustrating severity of crisis in China on January 24.
- The Trump Administration formed a Coronavirus task force on January 29, a day before the World Health Organization declared a global emergency on January 30.
- By January 31, 213 people had died of Covid-19 and 9,800 infected worldwide.
- First death outside of China reported on February 2.
- Cruise ship quarantined on February 5 in Japan with hundreds testing positive within weeks.
- Chinese doctor who raised alarm died on February 7.
- France announced first Covid-19 death on February 14.
- Church in South Korea further proved on February 21 how infectious and dangerous Covid-19 is with hundreds contracting virus.
- Virus reportedly reaches Iran on February 21.
- By February 23, many Italian towns are in lockdown to curb fast-spreading Covid-19.
- Virus reportedly reaches Latin America on February 26.
- Europe sees spike in infections on February 28.
- Beginning on March 9, the New York stock market begins to crash to unprecedented levels after reaching an all-time high in mid-February.
- France goes into nationwide lockdown on March 17.
Instead of Informing American Public of Impending Crisis, Trump and Supporters Repeatedly Downplayed Concerns, Telling Americans Not to Worry
- When asked about whether or not there were worries of the Coronavirus becoming a pandemic, Trump told CNBC “No, not at all,” on January 22, assuring his interviewer that “it’s going to be just fine.”
- On February 7, 2020, Trump tweeted that President Xi of China will be successful in his counterattack of the Coronavirus “as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone” despite the World Health Organization stating that the virus can be transmitted in all areas, including hot and humid weather.
- On February 19, Trump said “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine,”
- February 24, Trump tweeted “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock market starting to look very good to me!”
- Director of National Economic Council Larry Kudlow says on February 25, “We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight. We have done a good job in the United States….The business side, the economic side, I don’t think it’s going to be an economic tragedy at all…”
- The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security fails to answer basic questions about Covid-19 in a Senate hearing on February 25.
- On February 26, Trump said “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low. … When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
- At a press conference on February 28, Trump said “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
- At a rally in South Carolina on February 28, President Trump accused the Democrats of politicizing Covid-19, calling it, the new “hoax.”
- On March 6, Fox News Dr. Marc Siegel says Covid-19 is at worst the flu and praised President Trump for his response.
- On March 7, Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro compares Covid-19 to the flu and urges the public not to be alarmed.
- On March 9, Trump tweeted “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
- On March 10, Fox News Sean Hannity downplays Covid-19, comparing it to the flu.
- On March 14, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt tweeted a picture of himself at a restaurant with his family saying, “Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans.”
- On March 15, Rep. Devin Nunes told a Fox News audience to ignore self-quarantine recommendations saying, “One of the things you can do—if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant.”
- On March 16, Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted, “I suspect that closing down in-person dining at restaurants (Ky [Kentucky] just did) will lead to worse public health outcomes than if they had remained open.”
Instead of Taking Necessary Steps to Control Spread with Smart Testing, Trump Administration Was Paralyzed for More than a Month While States and Labs Across the Country Were Begging for Necessary Authority to Begin Their Own Testing
- On January 11, China posted the Covid-19 genome and shortly thereafter a test was developed in Germany. By the end of February, the World Health Organization had developed its own which it shipped to 60 countries, but the U.S. was not among them.
- Instead, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) developed its own test by January 21 and required all tests to be run through the CDC which took days or longer to process. On February 5, CDC began sending test kits to state public health labs to speed the testing process, but the vast majority of tests failed verification and were useless, so all testing continued through the slow CDC process. By February 21, the problems had not been resolved. On February 24, the Association of Public Health Laboratories asked for permission to use their own developed tests and by the end of February, the Trump administration finally relented.
- On March 2, despite laboratories across the country having had only one week of federal approval to use their own developed test kits, the FDA Commissioner promised one million tests by the end of the week. On March 6, Trump remarked that “Anybody right now and yesterday — anybody that needs a test gets a test. We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test,” despite Pence making a statement that same day about there not being enough tests. On March 12, Trump told reporters, “Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth.”
- On March 13, Trump said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the testing failures.
- When the first Covid-19 case arrived in Seattle in January, a physician-researcher was in the middle of a research project to collect, test, and track the spread of viruses, so she and her team were well-positioned to address Covid-19 by early February, but the Trump administration refused to waive regulations to allow her to do her job, wasting critical time.
- In contrast to U.S. testing, South Korea’s government raced to develop testing using the World Health Organization’s test “recipe” in partnership with private manufacturers when it first heard of Covid-19. South Korea had its first test by February 7 and was testing 10,000 people per day weeks later. Along with effective tracing of patients, they have become the world’s model for slowing and controlling the spread of Covid-19.
- Because of the Trump administration testing failures, President Trump resorted to asking South Korea for tests in late March.
Trump Lies to American Public About Covid-19 Treatment Costs and Continues Efforts to Limit Health Insurance for Americans
- On March 11, in an Oval Office address, Trump claimed that private health-insurance companies had “agreed to waive all co-payments for Coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing,” but many insurance companies reported that they will pick up the costs of testing, NOT treatments.
- Treatment for Covid-19 could cost up to $20,000 and even a person with health insurance could pay $1,300 in out-of-pocket expenses if hospitalized.
- Some quarantined Americans could experience surprise billing of thousands of dollars.
- At the same, the Trump administration has aggressively sought to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the courts, legislation, and regulation, even though the ACA has dramatically shrunk the number of uninsured from 46.5 million in 2010 to 27 million in 2016. In just the first two years of the Trump administration, the number of uninsured Americans has grown by 1.2 million.
Shortages in Health Facilities, Personal Protective Gear, and Health Care Staff Go Unaddressed
- Governors across the country call for federal help to address health systems shortages, many already asking for help from the national stockpile, clearly too many for the stockpile’s inventory:
- New York Governor Cuomo sounded the alarm for weeks and on March 17 said New York would need 110,000 regular hospital beds and 37,000 ICU beds, but the state only had 3,000 ICU beds and 53,000 hospital beds. By March 24, New York had already procured 7,000 more ventilators for a total of 10,000-11,000, but still needed 20,000 more. Yet, the federal government only sent 400. While Trump has promised New York and California a Navy hospital ship and other facilities, they were still in the initial phases of deployment on March 24.
- Massachusetts Governor requested help purchasing face masks on March 19 and President Trump joked that the Governor probably lost out to federal government buyers who were outbidding the Governor.
- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told CNN that States are “…all competing against each other. This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government, and the National Defense Authorization that the president has to essentially push this manufacturing really hasn’t gone into effect in any way.”
- In response, Trump tweeted on March 22: “.@JBPritzker, Governor of Illinois, and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”
- Florida has requested and received help from the federal government for personal protective gear, while other states received only a fraction of their requests, including Oregan and New Jersey.
- President Trump advises Vice President Pence on March 27, the head of the Covid-19 White House Task Force, not to call governors who are unappreciative, saying, “I want them to be appreciative…I say, Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan…If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
- Despite calls from governors across the nation for federal coordination and help, Trump refuses to nationalize medical supplies.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are running low, and sources claim they are reusing single-use equipment up to five times, and some hospitals have resorted to using plastic bags as gowns.
- Given shortages of face makes, CDC has a full webpage filled with alternative strategies for necessary face masks, including scarves and bandanas.
- In light of these shortages and Trump’s refusal to address it, Americans across the country are taking matters into their own hands, with California using Los Angeles seamstresses to make face masks and seamstresses across the country volunteering to sew masks, and GoFundMe accounts for hospitals to raise money for medical supplies.
- On March 18, Trump tweeted that he signed the Defence Production Act but would only “invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”
- On March 21, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Nurses Association called on the administration to “immediately use the Defense Production Act to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need.”
- On March 21, when asked in a briefing about why he was not pushing companies to act in accordance to the DPA, Trump said “We have the Act to use in case we need it, but we have so many things being made right now by so many … they are volunteering.”
- Ventilator manufacturers call for Trump administration “leadership” to centralize and distribute ventilators on March 24, saying they cannot appropriately assess without federal help which states or hospitals should receive priority for a limited supply of ventilators.
- More than a week after invoking the DPA, he finally used it only once by ordering General Motors to manufacture ventilators on March 27.
- The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is reportedly understaffed and at capacity, and mixed communication has been reported between the agency and Trump administration officials.
While Trump and His Supporters in Congress were Downplaying Covid-19 Concerns in Public, They Were Using Information About the Severity of the Coming Covid-19 Crisis for Personal Financial Gain
- The Senate received an all-Senator top secret (at the request of Senator Richard Burr) briefing on Covid-19 on January 24, 2020, the same day Senator Kelly Loeffler began selling certain stock that would later plummet in price due to Covid-19 and weeks before Senator Burr did the same. At the briefing, Senators were told, “‘there is a very strong chance of an extremely serious outbreak of the coronavirus here in the United States,” according to Senator Patty Murray. Senator Feinstein also sold shares before the stock market crashed, but claims that she’s held all assets in a blind trust where she has no control.
- Senator Burr issued op ed on February 7 urging calm, arguing that the federal government was taking many steps to protect the country.
Trump Defies Public Health Expert Recommendations and Calls for Early End of Critical Life-Saving Social Distancing
- Even with the worst of the crisis still ahead and against public health expert warnings, on March 24 in a Fox News town hall President Trump talks about ending social distancing by Easter, hinting at it by Tweet two days before.
- On March 25, Trump blamed politics and “LameStream Media” for keeping the country “closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to [his] election success.”
- On March 29, amid harsh criticism of public health experts, Trump backed off his call for an early end to social distancing and extended the government’s guidelines until April 30, as recommended.
- At a campaign rally in North Carolina on March 2, Trump told the crowd that “they’re going to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon,” despite health officials repeatedly saying this might take 12 to 18 months.
Instead of Appropriately Preparing the American Public for the Coming Crisis, Trump and Supporters Use this Crisis to Further Xenophobic Immigration Policy and To Blame Others
- In late January and early February, the Trump administration acted to close the border with China, buying what some have said could have been critical time to prepare, but was subsequently squandered.
- On March 10, Trump Tweets that to protect Americans from Covid-19, we need the border wall. According to Newsweek, “[t]he Trump administration appears to have overseen the construction of dozens of miles of President Donald Trump’s border wall since the first case of coronavirus was reported in the United States.”
- On March 21, using Covid-19 as an excuse, Trump unlawfully eliminated the legal right to apply for asylum at the Southern border, an act he has long sought but was unable to legally do, thereby potentially exacerbating the Covid-19 crisis.
- The World Health Organization officially names the Coronavirus “COVID-19” on February 11, 2020, and makes no reference to any people, places, or animals associated with the virus, in order to avoid stigma.
- Trump defends repeated use of “China virus,” despite increasing hate against Asian-Americans, stating “I think they probably would agree with it 100 percent. It comes from China.”
- Sen. John Cornyn, blames Chinese culture stating, “China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats & snakes & dogs & things like that, these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the Swine Flu.”
- Multiple other Republican lawmakers continue to call Covid-19 “China” or “Wuhan” virus, including Senator Tom Cotton, Rep. Paul Gosar, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, despite concern by public health experts and fellow Asian-American lawmakers.
- A U.N. Security Council resolution on Covid-19 stalls over U.S. government insistence on blaming and naming China on Covid-19.
- As if President Trump had not known about the looming danger of Covid-19 for months, he said on March 18 that China should have given us “earlier notice” and that Covid-19 “snuck up on us.”
- President Trump blames existing regulations on March 13 for testing slowdown, though it was clear that, with a strike of a CDC pen, labs across the country could have been given authority to begin testing much earlier under the regulations, as they eventually were (too) late in February.
- President Trump blames a non-existent Obama-era regulation on March 4.