White House senior advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner, who led a task force to fight COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, abandoned efforts to create a nationwide testing scheme after it was decided that it would be politically advantageous to let Democratic-controlled states suffer outbreaks, Vanity Fair reported Thursday.
“The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” a public health expert who was frequently in contact with Kushner’s task force told the magazine. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” they added.
Kushner, who is Jewish, has been deputized by Trump, his father-in-law, to run point on a number of strategic initiatives, including criminal justice reform, veterans’ affairs, trade with Mexico, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the opioid crisis and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The task force that Kushner chaired had originally come up with a nationwide test distribution program, where testing equipment could be “surged” to states that had the highest need. But in late April, President Trump announced that states would bear the primary responsibility for acquiring and administering tests. At the time, the biggest outbreaks were in New York and other blue states.
Other reports have also raised questions about Kushner’s handling of the crisis. The Financial Times reported in May that Kushner had told Trump that too much testing would rattle the stock market.
Kushner reportedly spread a wide net in seeking advice on how to combat the pandemic, talking not only with health experts but also a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and a Morgan Stanley banker, according to Vanity Fair.
Politico reported in March that Kushner also consulted his brother’s father-in-law Kurt Kloss, who is an emergency room doctor. Kloss then solicited advice on a Facebook page for doctors that had 22,000 members.
Vanity Fair reported in May that several volunteers from the financial sector had signed up to help him, only to be disillusioned by their work environment and what they saw as Kushner’s inexperience and incompetence, with one going so far as to file a whistleblower report with the House Oversight Committee.