WASHINGTON – White House senior advisor Jared Kushner made a rare appearance during Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing, an appearance that drew backlash when he referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as “our stockpile” and not one belonging to states.
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who doesn’t often make public appearances, says he has been serving on the coronavirus task force at the direction of Vice President Mike Pence.
When asked about data showing states’ need for equipment, Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile is that it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
He then referred to criticism from governors who say the government has not provided needed medical supplies.
“When you have governors saying that the federal government hasn’t given them what they need, I would encourage you to ask them, have you looked within your state to make sure you haven’t been able to find the resources?” he continued.
Critics pounced on Kushner’s comments.
“We are the UNITED STATES of America. The federal stockpile is reserved for all Americans living in our states, not just federal employees. Get it?” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., replied.
“Does anyone know any federal Americans? Where do they live? How many are there? Are they nice? Why do they need some much protective gear and ventilators,” quipped Joe Lockhart, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton.
Former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub pointed out that the website of the Strategic National Stockpile points to its potential use by state and local governments.
“It is for the American people…as the federal government’s OWN strategic national stockpile website assures us!” he wrote.
Trump has been on the defensive about what some governors and mayors have called a slow delivery of supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a series of tweets Thursday, the president said, “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them.”
State and local governments have voiced concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers like masks and gowns.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last Monday asking the federal government to step up and help the states.
“There simply aren’t enough test kits, medical supplies and other lifesaving equipment to meet the scope of this pandemic. While states are doing all we can to secure access to these items, the federal government must take extraordinary steps to deliver what we need,” they wrote.
In a CNN interview Friday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked for more supplies and medical personnel and said, “We can only get to Monday or Tuesday at this point. We don’t know after that. How on earth is this happening in the greatest nation in the world?”
FEMA documents released Thursday by the House Oversight Committee showed states in the mid-Atlantic getting what Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., called a “tiny fraction” of the equipment requested.
According to the documents about equipment requests from Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, the states requested:
- 5.2 million N95 masks but received 445,000
- 194 million pairs of gloves, but received 991,000
- 15,000 body bags, but received none