Four hyper-partisan Democrat senators are demanding an investigation into the revised description of the Strategic National Stockpile. A firestorm was set off after Thursday’s coronavirus task force’s White House briefing with reporters when Trump senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner used the word “our” when describing the stockpile.
Kushner was made available by the White House to give an update of supply distribution for medical personnel and facilities Thursday. When he stated that states must be aggressive in procuring their own supplies to meet the needs of the medical community in their states, the message he was trying to deliver is that governors shouldn’t be so reliant upon the national stockpile. The national stockpile, he said, is meant to be a “stop-gap” measure, not the primary source of resources for states. He referred to the national stockpile as “our stockpile”.
“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile, it’s not supposed to be the state’s stockpile that they then use,” Kushner said.
The reporters pushed back on Kushner’s verbiage and said that, according to the website, the Strategic National Stockpile was indeed meant to be used by states and local governments during an emergency. Kushner agreed but he was trying to stress that the states should use their own supplies before tapping into the national stockpile, especially given the fact that the national supply was low, too. The way Kushner said it, though, could have been misconstrued to imply the federal supply was under his control.
By Friday, the website had been changed to reflect Kushner’s description. Reporters were ready to jump on the president over his son-in-law’s words. Kushner wasn’t at Friday’s press briefing.
This is what the website for the federal stockpile said yesterday vs what it says today, after Kushner was caught lying about how states aren’t supposed to be using it. It was changed to say, “Many states have products stockpiled, as well.” https://t.co/kbNXiwaJbX pic.twitter.com/xAtPKIyHnA
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) April 3, 2020
Reporters noticed that Kushner’s wording – “short-term stopgap” – now appears on the website and the official description of the national stockpile has been shortened.
Previously, according to the federal public health emergency website, the Strategic National Stockpile was described as “the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.”
The description continued: “When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency.”
But on Friday that was replaced with a shorter one-paragraph description that says the stockpile is meant as a “short-term stopgap.”
“The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available,” the website now says.
So, four Democrat senators – Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey – signed a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) office of inspector general. They want an investigation to be launched into why the description has been changed.
Early this morning on April 3, 2020, an unidentified entity, at the direction of an unidentified source, swiftly deleted the description of the Strategic National Stockpile as, “…the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out,” and deleted the reference to the fact that one of the purposes of maintaining a Federal Strategic National Stockpile is so that, “When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously.”
This inaccurate deletion distorts the public’s understanding of the purpose of the Strategic National Stockpile and violates principles of good and honest government, including transparency, faithful execution of the agency’s mission and most importantly, advancing the public interest. The timing of the deletion appears related to Jared Kushner’s inaccurate
statement yesterday that, “And the notion of the Federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be State stockpiles that they then use.”
Trump took the heat from CBS’S Weijia Jiang. Jiang was particularly aggressive. It is often shocking to me that the press no longer even tries to keep a sense of professional decorum as they question Trump. Clearly they have no respect for him but I am amazed by how rude and obnoxious reporters often become in the briefing room. She asked Trump what exactly Kushner was saying about the stockpile and Trump, as you would expect, defended his son-in-law and tore into her. He described her question as a “gotcha” question.
Jiang repeatedly pressed on Kushner’s comments and what the government is doing with the federal stockpile.
The president lashed out at one point, saying, “It’s such a basic, simple question. And you try to make it sound so bad. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You know it, you ought to be ashamed. It’s such a simple question. He said ‘our.’ And ‘our’ means for the country. And ‘our’ means for the states because the states are part of the country. Don’t make it sound bad.”
He also accused her of asking a question in a “nasty tone” and insisting he gave a “perfect answer.”
Jared Kushner is in charge of the medical supply chain that delivers critical items to the doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines everyday. Yesterday he said it was “OURS”, so I asked what he meant. Trump did not like the question. https://t.co/pZfQiNVWne
— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) April 3, 2020
Just another day at the White House, right? Whoever approved the changing of the wording on the website only made the situation worse. Now it looks like some sort of cover-up, regardless of how petty this whole thing is. It’s given the Democrats one more way to attack the Trump administration and even to launch yet another investigation. I’m not a particularly big fan of Jared Kushner – and I was not at all excited to see Trump bring him and Ivanka in as unpaid advisers – but there is no reason to think that anything untoward is happening with the supply chain coming out of the federal government in response to the needs of the states. Governors continue to say that they call President Trump or Vice-President Pence and that they receive what is requested.
HHS says the wording has been used for some time now, not just since Thursday or Friday.
Many are asking about an update to the ASPR website. ASPR first began working to update this text a week ago to more clearly explain the role of the Strategic National Stockpile. HHS has been using this same language in statements to the press for weeks now.
— HHS Public Affairs (@SpoxHHS) April 3, 2020