Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta have co-authored a book that offers new insights about last year’s COVID-19 response by the White House. “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” includes interviews with 180 people - among them, White House senior staff members and government health leaders. New information, such as President Donald Trump floating the idea of transferring infected American citizens in Asia to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, shows the power struggles at play at the highest levels, while the country confronted its worst pandemic in a century.


Reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb says Mark Meadows was “consumed with fear” that Trump might die from COVID while he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center. “What we know is the Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was consumed with fear that weekend that Trump might die… Meadow’s gave a quote-unquote background briefing to reporters… he was saying he’s not quite out of the woods yet, and then what Damian and I since learned is that he was very, very worried at that point which might explain why he felt like he had to correct the record in some way.” (Washington Post Live)
Paletta also said he felt the Trump administration was blamed for some issues that would have hampered any administration. “Absolutely. I mean this was completely a freak event… The nightmare scenario is to have a virus like this, a respiratory virus that spread asymptomatically, so people are transporting the virus who don’t know they’re sick… This is an incredibly challenging virus to stop… Frankly, President Trump’s approval rating in late March was quite high when there was a lot of fear. People were looking to him for leadership… I think a lot of people felt like he was on top of things and it was under control.” (Washington Post Live)

Yasmeen Abutaleb

Yasmeen Abutaleb joined The Washington Post in 2019 as a national reporter covering health policy, with a focus on the Department of Health and Human Services, health policy on Capitol Hill and health care in politics. She previously covered health care for Reuters, with a focus on the Affordable Care Act, federal health programs and drug pricing.In 2016, Yasmeen was a lead reporter on a five-part series that examined the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant infections and the inability of the government and health-care industry to address the problem. Yasmeen has also reported in depth on the opioid crisis, changes to Medicaid and political influence on health policies.

Damian Paletta

Damian Paletta is the Post’s economics editor. Before taking this role, he covered White House economic policy from 2017 until 2019. Previously, he covered the White House for the Wall Street Journal. He has also worked at the American Banker and the Cape Cod Times.