The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: #FireFauci signals coronavirus blame game is in full throttle

Placeholder while article actions load

with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning and welcome back. Hope everyone had a good weekend. Tips, comments, bets on whether Dr. Fauci will be at today's White House briefing? Thanks for waking up with us and sign up here for more on Washington's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

At The White House

THE BLAME GAME IS ON: Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed yesterday that lives could have been saved had President Trump made the call to shut the country down sooner as the novel coronavirus began to spread throughout the United States.

  • “I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” he said on CNN's “State of the Union” on CNN. “Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you’re right. Obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down.”

#FireFauci? Fauci's comments were not lost on the president, who retweeted and responded to a post with a #FireFauci hashtag, claiming he had acted early to contain the disease by banning travel from China — a move Fauci was initially against. It was one of several tweets issued by the president on Easter Sunday in defense of his handling of the crisis. 

  • “If the Fake News Opposition Party is pushing, with all their might, the fact that President Trump ‘ignored early warnings about the threat,’ then why did Media & Dems viciously criticize me when I instituted a Travel Ban on China? They said ‘early & not necessary.’ Corrupt Media!” he tweeted yesterday afternoon.

Fauci's admission comes on the heels of several damning media reports detailing Trump's repeated dismissal of warnings from top White House advisers and his own public health officials as the U.S. deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, topped 21,000 over the weekend.

  • “It did not have to happen this way,” our colleagues wrote earlier this month, outlining multiple opportunities — starting as far back as Jan. 3 — for Trump to address the global pandemic also devastating the U.S. economy. 
  • And over the weekend, the New York Times published a deep dive laying out a series of missed opportunities and pivot points inside the administration that could have potentially changed the course of the disease's wrath.

Those news stories show that Jan. 3 until March 16, the president could have chose a different, more aggressive course to tackle what would become the biggest crisis of his presidency.

The FDA commissioner, governors and other experts responded on April 12 to reports that President Trump is seeking to reopen the country as soon as May 1. (Video: The Washington Post)

A timeline: 

  • Jan. 3: The Trump administration received its first formal notification of the outbreak in China, according to our colleagues Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller. “Within days, U.S. spy agencies were signaling the seriousness of the threat to Trump by including a warning about the coronavirus — the first of many — in the President’s Daily Brief,” they write. Advisers in the White House, however, struggled to get Trump to take the threat seriously.
  • Jan. 18: The secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, was finally able to speak with Trump, who was at Mar-a-Lago, and provide him with his first briefing about the virus. But the conversation was quickly derailed: “When he reached Trump by phone, the president interjected to ask about vaping and when flavored vaping products would be back on the market, the senior administration officials said,” according to our colleagues Shane Harris, Greg, Josh and Ellen.
  • Jan. 21: The first confirmed U.S. case is announced in Washington state.
  • Jan. 22: During an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump told CNBC he was “not at all” worried about a potential pandemic: “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China … It’s going to be just fine.”
  • Jan. 29: The top White House adviser on trade and China hawk, Peter Navarro, issued a memo starkly warning “that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death,” the New York Times's Maggie Haberman reported. Trump did create the coronavirus task force that same day, but he was still publicly downplaying the virus.
  • Jan 30: Despite recommendations from his top health advisers against doing so, “Mr. Trump would approve the limits on travel from China the next day, though it would be weeks before he began taking more aggressive steps to head off spread of the virus,” per Haberman. 
  • Feb. 5: Azar submitted an emergency request for over $4 billion to the White House budget officials after HHS leaders sent over two letters asking the office “to use its transfer authority to shift $136 million of department funds into pools that could be tapped for combating the coronavirus,” Yasmeen, Josh, Ellen and Greg report. “Azar and his aides also began raising the need for a multibillion-dollar supplemental budget request to send to Congress.” 
  • A shouting match ensued in the Situation Room that day in response to Azar's ask, our colleagues report: “A deputy in the budget office accused Azar of preemptively lobbying Congress for a gigantic sum that White House officials had no interest in granting.”
  • Feb. 6: After the World Health Organization shipped 250,000 test kits to labs around the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “began distributing 90 kits to a smattering of state-run health labs,” per Yasmeen, Josh, Ellen and Grerg. “Almost immediately, the state facilities encountered problems.”
  • Feb. 29: The testing problems continued and it wasn't until Feb. 29 that the Food and Drug Administration issued a new policy allowing private labs to proceed with their own tests.
  • Feb. 21: Dr. Robert Kadlec, the top disaster response official at HHS, convened the coronavirus task force to recalibrate the administration's virus response, according to the New York Times's Eric Lipton, David Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael Shear, Mark Mazzetti, and Julian Barnes.The group — including [Fauci]; Dr. Robert R. Redfield of the [CDC], and Mr. Azar, who at that stage was leading the White House task forceconcluded they would soon need to move toward aggressive social distancing, even at the risk of severe disruption to the nation’s economy and the daily lives of millions of Americans.” 
  • Feb. 23: Navarro penned a second memo that was circulated in the West Wing, laying “the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: ‘This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill,’” per Axios's Jonathan Swan. In that memo, Navarro predicted a “full-blown” pandemic “could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.”
  • Feb. 24: “ … Dr. Kadlec and the others decided to present Mr. Trump with a plan titled 'Four Steps to Mitigation,' telling the president that they needed to begin preparing Americans for a step rarely taken in United States history,” per Lipton, Sanger, Haberman, Shear, Mazzetti, and Barnes. “But over the next several days, a presidential blowup and internal turf fights would sidetrack such a move. The focus would shift to messaging and confident predictions of success rather than publicly calling for a shift to mitigation.” 
  • Feb. 29: A Washington state man with an underlying health condition became the first person to die of coronavirus in the United States.
  • March 11: Trump delivered an Oval Office address on the virus in which he announced the ban of all travel from Europe for 30 days and called to buoy the economy. But the president still did not recommend social distancing.   
  • March 16: Trump agreed to implement new and stronger guidelines issued by the CDC for Americans to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings of groups of 10 or more people.

Outside the Beltway

HEADLINES FROM THE HOT SPOTS: Power Up's continuing look at how the virus is affecting states and cities throughout the country.

The stories of the first Americans to die from the coronavirus: “The Washington Post has been tracking every covid-19 death in the United States, and an in-depth analysis of the first 1,000 who died reveals the breadth of the outbreak’s impact,” Abigail Hauslohner, Reis Thebault and Jacqueline Dupree report.

  • What they've found: “The virus spreads swiftly and tends to kill in clusters — in families and senior homes, in dense cities and rural towns. It is especially dangerous for the elderly, but scores of younger people have fallen victim, too,” our colleagues write.
On April 11, 2020, Mayor de Blasio (D-N.Y.) said public schools would stay closed for the school year while Gov. Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said there'd been "no decision." (Video: The Washington Post)

NEW YORK:

De Blasio, Cuomo clash over closing schools: “The episode was a glaring example of the persistent dysfunction between the two men, an often small-bore turf war that now has surfaced during an urgent crisis in which nearly 800 New Yorkers are dying daily, adding to uncertainty over when and how the city will reopen,” the New York Times’s Jesse McKinley, Eliza Shapiro and Jeffery C. Mays report of confusion over whether New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will shutter schools until September something that remains unresolved. Cuomo told reporters that he wants a regional decision on the topic.

  • De Blasio informed Cuomo of his move via text: “The mayor’s top aides said he called [Cuomo] just a few minutes before he was to announce the news to the public. de Blasio did not get through. So the mayor sent a text message,” the Times reports.

Trump's friend has died of covid-19: “Stanley Chera, the prominent New York City real estate developer and Republican donor who co-founded Crown Acquisitions, has died of complications related to covid-19, a source close to Chera confirmed to CNN Sunday. He was in his late 70s,” CNN's Clare Duffy and Sarah Jorgensen report. (Journalist Yashar Ali first broke the news.)

  • The president repeatedly told reporters about a friend with covid-19: White House aides refused to divulge that person's name, but earlier this month the Times's Haberman reported that Trump was talking about Chera. 

NEW JERSEY:

The state is still dealing with long testing delays: It’s difficult to get a complete picture of exactly how many people in New Jersey currently have covid-19 because the state is testing only symptomatic residents and officials say test results can be delayed for up to 14 days due to a backlog,” NJ Advance Media for NJ.com's Matt Arco reports.

  • Those ages 30-64 are most likely to have the virus: “So who has been hardest hit so far by covid-19 as of April 10, the most recent data available? Those ages 30 to 64 are testing positive at a higher rate than other age groups. But those age 80 and older are most likely to be hospitalized,” NJ.com’s J. Dale Shoemaker reports, though he cautions that data isn't complete and full information is only know for just over 1 out 5 cases.

Doctors make history with stem cell treatment: New Jersey doctors on Saturday “injected stem cells into a critically ill coronavirus patient, in the hope they will bolster his immune system and save his life,” NJ.com's Riley Yates reports. It is believed to be the first time that procedure, which uses cells drawn from a human placenta, has been performed in the United States to combat covid-19.

Another nurse is fired over PPE dispute: Dawn Kulach said she was fired “for not agreeing to comply with a policy to ration protective equipment that she claimed put her and others at risk of contracting the coronavirus,” NJ.com's Susan K. Livio reports.

LOUISIANA:

Officials say the virus's spread is slowing, but it's far too soon to get back to normal: “There have been hopeful signs in the statistics tracking the spread of the coronavirus through Louisiana in recent weeks and encouraging words from public officials that the state may be succeeding in slowing it,” NOLA.com's Jeff Adelson and Bryn Stole report.

A nurse anesthetist contracted the virus. He quarantined and then returned to the job: “I can’t let down my co-workers,” Alex Wheatley told NOLA.com. “My patients need me.” Wheatley works directly with the most dire covid-19 patients, those in the ICU who need intubation and are placed on a ventilator.

New Orleans trauma surgeons try to balance other cases amid pandemic: “ … As they try to prevent the spread of coronavirus throughout an area hard hit by the infection, doctors, nurses and public officials are battling other epidemics that plague Louisiana: gun violence and alcohol abuse,” NOLA.com's Emily Woodruff reports.

  • Key graf: “Over each 24-hour shift — which often extend to 36 hours — 10 to 20 patients arrive with grave, life-threatening injuries, even amid the stay-at-home orders of the coronavirus outbreak. With each one, he reassures them, ‘We’re going to take care of you,’” NOLA.com reports of trauma surgeon Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein.

CONNECTICUT:

Lamont, Cuomo and Murphy to meet over reopening their states' economies: Three Democratic governors, New York's Cuomo, New Jersey's Phil Murphy and Connecticut's Ned Lamont are set to meet today to discuss steps to craft a “regional back-to-work strategy,” the Hartford Courant's Kenneth R. Gosselin, Dave Altimari and Russell Blair report.

The state now has three mobile hospitals built by its National Guard: The Connecticut National Guard spent most of Saturday turning a convention center in Hartford into a mobile hospital with 646 beds as officials try to boost their capacity before more expected cases arise, the Courant reports.

MICHIGAN:

Whitmer’s renewed stay-at-home order panned by Republicans: Michigan Republican leaders, who control both houses of the state’s legislature, panned Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) decision to extend her order through the end of the month and pointed out inconsistencies in revisions to what is and is not allowed. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey wrote on Facebook that Whitmer (D) is “destroying our health by ruining our livelihoods, MLive’s Samuel Dodge reports.

  • Whitmer’s office defended itselfBut critics of it question its logic, noting, for example, “In-store purchases of Michigan Lottery tickets are still permitted, but buying a can of paint or a bag of seeds is off limits,” the Detroit Free Press’s Paul Egan reports. Beginning Saturday, Michiganders cannot travel between two residences, “including jumping in the car to visit a friend, or even walking across the street to watch TV with a neighbor” though there are some exceptions to that, including caring for a relative or elderly friend or visiting a nursing home.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a libertarian lawmaker and a former Republican, voiced his concern:

Cases drop, but state officials urge caution: “The last time the number of new cases was less than 1,000 was March 29. And it’s the first time in a week that the number of new reported deaths is below 100,” MLive’s Roberto Acosta reports. The state health department said the drop could reflect a lag in test results.

  • One woman tragically lost both her husband and son: “In three days last week, [Sandy] Brown lost her husband and son, Freddie Lee Brown Jr. and Freddie Lee Brown III, to the novel coronavirus,” the Detroit News’s Francis X. Donnelly reports.

The Campaign

WOMAN ACCUSES BIDEN OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: “A California woman who last year said Joe Biden touched her neck and shoulders when she worked in his Senate office in 1993 is now accusing him of sexually assaulting her that year in a semiprivate area of the Capitol complex, an allegation the Biden campaign strongly denies,” Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, Matt Viser and Alice Crites report.

The Post examined Tara Reade’s allegation over the past three weeks, “since she said on a podcast that Biden had pinned her against a wall, reached under her skirt and pushed his fingers inside her. At the time, she was a 29-year-old staff assistant.”

  • What that reporting entailed: Our colleagues interviewed Reade herself multiple times, both this year and last. They also talked to “people she says she told of the assault claim and more than a half-dozen former staffers of Biden’s Senate office.”
  • What emerged: “The former vice president has been accused of unwanted hugging and other physical contact, but The Post found no other allegations against him as serious as Reade’s. More than a dozen women, by contrast, have accused Trump of forced kissing, groping or sexual assault, and he has been recorded on audio boasting about grabbing women between their legs,” our colleagues write.

What she told them: “In interviews with The Post last year, Reade said that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders but did not mention the alleged assault or suggest there was more to the story,” our colleagues write. “She faulted his staff, calling Biden ‘a male of his time, a very powerful senator, and he had people around saying it was okay.’ She acknowledged in more recent interviews that she twice voted for the Obama-Biden ticket, saying she strongly supported their political positions.”

  • Reade acknowledged voting twice for the Obama-Biden ticket, saying “she strongly supported their political positions. “Since January, Reade has been a vocal supporter of Biden's former rival Bernie Sanders,” our colleagues write. “She said political considerations played no role in her decision to raise the sexual assault allegation.”
  • Last Thursday, Reade filed a complaint with the D.C. police: “She told The Post she did so because she is being harassed online and wanted law enforcement to be aware of her claim. A public record of the complaint does not name Biden but says Reade ‘disclosed that she believes she was the victim of a sexual assault’ in 1993,” our colleagues write.

Biden's former Senate staff said they have no memory of Reade voicing a complaint at the time: The ex-Delaware senator's then-chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and an executive assistant all said they did not recall Reade making a complaint. “In all my years working for Sen. Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period — not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone,” Marianne Baker, who was an executive assistant in the office and one of the supervisors to whom Reade says she made a harassment complaint, said in a statement released by the campaign.

  • Reade says she filed a complaint at the time with a congressional human resources or personnel office: “Her complaint dealt only with the alleged harassment, not the assault, she said,” our colleagues write. “The Post could find no record of the complaint, and Reade said she never received a copy. "

Global Power

RUSSIA-SAUDIS REACH OIL DEAL: Oil-producing nations “agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets,” the New York Times's Clifford Krauss reports.

Trump had made an agreement between Russians and Saudis are key priority: “Saudi Arabia and Russia typically take the lead in setting global production goals. But [Trump], facing a reelection campaign, a plunging economy and American oil companies struggling with collapsing prices, took the unusual step of getting involved after the two countries entered a price war a month ago,” the Times reports.

  • It's unclear if this will be enough to shore up prices: “Before the coronavirus crisis, 100 million barrels of oil each day fueled global commerce, but demand is down about 35 percent. While significant, the cuts agreed to on Sunday still fall far short of what is needed to bring oil production in line with demand."
Loading...