- Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key member of the White House’s “shadow” coronavirus task force, gave his first media briefing of the crisis on Thursday.
- Kushner drew a line between emergency equipment stockpiled by the federal government and equipment for use by individual states.
- “You also have a situation where in some states, FEMA allocated ventilators to the states … but the state still has a stockpile and the notion of the federal stockpile was, it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use,” said Kushner.
- Democrats criticized Kushner’s remarks, saying that equipment purchased by federal agencies is for the use of all American taxpayers.
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White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner said state officials can’t necessarily count on using “our” federal stockpile of emergency medical equipment during the coronavirus crisis, prompting widespread confusion and criticism.
It was Kushner’s first time fielding questions from the press since reports emerged that he had set up his own “shadow” coronavirus team in the White House, which is tasked with obtaining key supplies for hospitals and rolling out testing for the disease.
When asked about his work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure states can obtain vital equipment, he said that state officials should not assume that federal stockpiles of equipment are for state use.
“You also have a situation where in some states, FEMA allocated ventilators to the states and you have instances where in cities they’re running out, but the state still has a stockpile and the notion of the federal stockpile was, it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use,” Kushner said.
“So, we’re encouraging the states to make sure that they’re assessing the needs, they’re getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we’ve given them.”
The Trump administration has faced mounting criticism for failing to ensure that hospitals are equipped with ventilators, protective masks and clothing, and testing facilities, as the number of infections in the US soared to the highest in the world.
Kushner’s remarks seem to contradict the purpose of the Strategic National Stockpile, which is operated by HHS. According to its website, the stockpile is “the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.”
“When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency,” the website said.
Some critics were baffled at the line Kushner seemed to draw between equipment for federal use, and state use.
“Dear Jared Kushner of the @realDonaldTrump Administration: We are the UNITED STATES of America. The federal stockpile is reserved for all Americans living in our states, not just federal employees. Get it?” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat.
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, took issue with Kushner’s use of the word “our.”
“Shocking. His use of the word, “our” , is so wrong. Mr. Kushner and the federal government work for US, citizens of the United States, who also happen to live in states. These masks in the stockpile are OUR masks, paid for by OUR money,” he tweeted.
—Michael McFaul (@McFaul) April 3, 2020
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on Kushner’s remarks, and comment on the criticism leveled against him.
The New York Times on Tuesday reported that Kushner had staffed his team with allies and figures from the private sector who one unnamed source likened to a “frat party.”
According to the report, members of Kushner’s team have clashed with government officials as they seek to streamline processes to ensure that equipment is received by frontline health workers.
Kushner explained his role on Thursday.
“The president wanted us to make sure we think outside the box. Make sure we’re finding all the best thinkers in the country. Making sure we’re getting all the best ideas and that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that we can keep Americans safe,” he said.
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