The so-called “shadow” task force headed in March by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was tasked to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals in need. It relied on a slew of volunteers from private sector industries that often had no relevant experience with their newfound roles in the medical supply chain. Lacking any existing relationships with vendors, these task force volunteers were instructed to “fast-track” recommendations from “VIPs,” which included several Fox News hosts, all of whom also lacked any relevant industry experience, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
In a complaint obtained by the Post, a volunteer who has since left the task force wrote that the dearth of relevant experience, industry relationships, knowledge of government protocols, and understanding of applicable regulations resulted in Kushner’s team being forced to rely on conservative news personalities to obtain the lifesaving protective equipment.
Six administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity “for fear of retribution from the administration” also confirmed key elements of the report.
“Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, for example, called two people he knew in the administration to pass along a lead about protective equipment in an effort to be helpful,” the Post reported.
“Fox News Channel host Jeanine Pirro also repeatedly lobbied the administration for a specific New York hospital to receive a large quantity of masks,” said another source.
A spokesperson for the network said neither Kilmeade nor Pirro were aware that their tips were being prioritized by the administration.
The complaint also stated that Kushner’s team “had trouble developing manufacturer relationships and making inroads with brokers, in part because they were using personal email accounts, rather than official government email addresses,” a claim confirmed by three senior administration officials.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, such haphazard compliance to government protocols has been alleged to violate federal law. It also leads to mass confusion. In at least one case, FEMA advised a vendor to report to the police a member of the task force who used a personal email account because the agency assumed the volunteer was fraudulently posing as a government official.
Yet even as his team scrambled to secure the PPE, nearly one-third of the “key supplies” in the national stockpile of emergency equipment, such as face masks, were diverted to a different Kushner-led effort that failed to deliver: drive-through testing sites, according to an internal planning document obtained by the Post and confirmed by two administration officials.
Though one official denied the supplies were diverted, the fact remains that after promising to erect a network of thousands of drive-through testing sites around the nation in early April, only 78 ever materialized.
In a statement, Kushner claimed his team sourced “tens of millions of masks and essential PPE in record time.” However, two administration officials who disputed the complaint could not provide any evidence of the endeavors success.
“They said that the volunteers did not have trouble vetting leads or getting responses from brokers or companies, and that many of the volunteers had relevant backgrounds and experience,” the Post reported. “The officials added that it is difficult to know whether the volunteers received leads on protective equipment that resulted in procurement because nongovernment employees did not have final decision or purchasing authority.”
[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]
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