In late 2019, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, counseled a Saudi prince in his time of need. Poor Mohammed bin Salman. He was in hot water, you’ll recall, for ordering up an assassination that included sawing off the limbs of an American resident.
Kushner told MBS the gruesome killing could be smoothed over. The Saudis’ sadism, in other words, was merely a PR speed bump.
Kushner is treating American death as a personal publicity project once again. With his fingers all over the White House’s catastrophic coronavirus policy, he’s been lying about the pandemic with increasing rashness.
“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this,” he told Fox News on Wednesday with a smooth smile. “The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.”
Note the past tense. Note the callousness.
The national death toll shot past 61,000 this week. My father’s sister was among the casualties — along with so many aunts, uncles, brothers, daughters, sisters, sons, mothers and fathers that the badly managed coronavirus crisis has killed — more Americans in three months than in 19 years of warfare in Vietnam.
On Wednesday, Kushner didn’t utter a word of condolence to the American people. Instead, he called their deaths his triumph.
No sane person buys what Kushner is selling. People are still dying by the thousands each day, and, in new hot spots, cases are mounting. And as Dr. Anthony Fauci keeps explaining, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.
But Kushner is smearing his patented formula of shellac, Brylcreem and greasy lies — oh, and bleach — over these facts and the latest set of ghoulish Trumpian misdeeds.
To review: The president didn’t just scoff at the pandemic as a Democratic ploy. He didn’t just delay stimulus checks so he could autograph them as he once did the Bible. And he didn’t just promote intravenous Lysol as a COVID-19 cure.
All of that was unconscionable. But this time, the Trump Syndicate seems to have done something even more grave.
Kushner took control of a shadowy, free-styling coronavirus task force distinct from the official one run by Vice President (and mask refuser) Mike Pence, adding to the coronavirus chaos in the executive branch and increasing the administration’s ability to pick and choose who would get life-saving public aid.
Only for someone as cold-blooded and clueless as Kushner could this sort of thing be considered “a great success story.”
Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to watchdogs at the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking for an investigation into “President Trump’s politicization of … the federal government’s public health and economic response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.” The letter cites Kushner’s egregious behavior in particular.
In early April, Kushner claimed the Strategic National Stockpile — medical supplies set aside for public health crises — is “supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.” False. (The day after Kushner’s “let them eat cake” pronouncement, the stockpile website got changed: The repository was no longer aimed at emergencies “severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.” It suddenly became merely a “supplement” to state storehouses. )
Revelations about Trump’s and Kushner’s vindictive pandemic policies keep emerging. How exactly are stockpile supplies deployed? Not transparently. But we know for sure that Trump has at least suggested that his minions deal only with governors who “treat us well.”
Officials in five states have accused the White House of hijacking supplies they scrambled to obtain given the lack of federal support. In just one example, the federal government seized 500 ventilators ordered through a private company by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, as his state was staring down its peak surge in coronavirus cases.
According to Gabriel Sherman’s reporting in Vanity Fair, it’s Kushner who all along has urged Trump to ignore Democratic governors. Kushner insisted that he had his “ own projections” and knew better about the needs of various states than public health officials. This from a guy whose idea of getting up to speed on infectious disease was to ask his brother’s father-in-law, an ER doctor, to solicit advice about the pandemic on Facebook.
Kushner also claimed to have set up a deal with Google to create a disease-screening website, which Trump crowed about. That was pure fantasy. On the other hand, Silicon Valley luminaries did build crucial software to match hospitals and suppliers, only to have Kushner ghost them and instead tell the hospitals to stop complaining.
All in all, the crisis has presented Kushner with a stellar opportunity to do what he’s best at: Tell the opposite of the truth. Ignore real expertise. Treat a ghastly threat to our lives and livelihoods primarily as a danger to the stock market and thus to Trump’s reelection.
“I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal,” Kushner told Fox News. “The hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.”
Kushner doesn’t know from normal, and he himself has never left off his usual game: hiding the misconduct of Trump and gunning for his overlord to hold onto power, this time by pretending that the tragic deaths of more than 61,000 Americans foretell a rocking summer.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Virginia Heffernan is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
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