President Donald Trump and his health advisers made critical mistakes handling the coronavirus, current and former officials admit, and those errors have cost tens of thousands of lives and imperil his political future.
Although the virus still isn’t fully understood, officials told The Daily Beast that the White House was well aware of the danger it posed but purposefully misled the public about the risk and moved too slowly to contain its spread.
“The administration thought it reacted early to blocking travel from China in the early days, but it was almost too late,” said one senior health official. “The virus was already here. That was the biggest mistake, not moving quickly enough. The breaking point was really that early. We went from a full-on defense to an ‘it’s here, what do we do?’ mentality. We haven’t been able to reverse course since then.”
The president and his team ignored warnings from national security and health officials, and officials told The Daily Beast the White House moved too slowly to ramp up testing, lock down the country as others had done, and invoke the Defense Production Act to distribute needed medical supplies.
“There was a basic pushback that this thing could hit us the way it did other countries,” said one senior official, “and that messaging was coming from the White House and extended outside the administration.”
The Daily Beast asked seven Trump advisers and confidants if they ever heard him express regret about his handling of the virus, and all of them said no — and one senior administration literally laughed out loud.
“You’re talking about this president, right?” that official said.
Many of the president’s allies doubt he will win re-election, and most of them believe that his mishandling of the pandemic will prove to be his political undoing — and will likely be his lasting legacy.
“The biggest regret is that the president acted so much like himself during the pandemic,” said one senior administration official who works closely with the COVID-19 team. “There is nothing that I’m aware of that could have been done to make that un-happen.”
“I fear that his [coronavirus] response will be in the beginning of his obituary,” that official added.