President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner reportedly urged his father-in-law in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic not to prioritize testing or ordering potentially life-saving equipment like ventilators because of fears it might drive down stock prices.
Kushner's efforts to convince the president not to take decisive action were first reported in the Financial Times:
"Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn't do it," says a Trump confidant who speaks to the president frequently. "That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate."
"And there you have it," tweeted strategist Mark Elliott. "150,000 Americans sacrificed for the stock market."
GQ's Luke Darby pointed out Thursday that the advised ploy didn't even work.
"Kushner's advice did nothing to prevent a market crash," wrote Darby, "and it's likely that the administration's refusal to act in time only threw the economy into more chaos."
"And while the stock market largely affects the investment portfolios of the rich (the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own more than 80 percent of stocks)," he added, "the fallout has the rest of the country reeling, with a historic 36 million people filing unemployment claims."
Note to Kushner:
Dead people don’t travel, shop at malls, go to bars & restaurants or football stadiums.
Dead people don’t even go to Trump rallies. https://t.co/IO4ICTohoj
— Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) May 14, 2020
The president's obsession with the economy is tied to his re-election hopes, according to the Financial Times reporting:
In the meantime, Trump will probably continue to dangle the prospect of miracle cures. Every week since the start of the outbreak, he has said a vaccine is just around the corner. His latest estimate is that it will be ready by July. Scientists say it will take a year at best to produce an inoculation. Most say 18 months would be lucky. Even that would break all records. The previous fastest development was four years for mumps in the 1960s.
On Thursday, Trump appeared to suggest to reporters at the White House that testing was itself the source of the problem.
"If we didn't do any testing we would have very few cases," the president said.
The Nation writer Jeet Heer was quick to respond.
"It sounds insane when you put it like this," Heer tweeted, "but the idea 'if we didn't do any testing we would have very few cases' is the core of Trump's response to the pandemic."