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Trump admin rejected HHS Sec. Azar’s early February request for $4 billion for coronavirus fight

Trump admin rejected HHS Sec. Azar’s early February request for $4 billion for coronavirus fight

In recent daily press briefing about the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump has bristled at the accusations that the sudden reversal of his early disavowals of the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak — “We’re going very substantially down, not up,” he said on February 26th — was akin to closing the barn doors after the cows had already broken out and wandered into all the neighboring fields.

Calling reporters “nasty” after they in any way insinuated that perhaps his failure to act quickly enough to respond to a dangerous disease — that we now know his administration was informed of as early as January 3rd — led to a more virulent contagion and additional preventable deaths, Trump has tried to rewrite history through the endless repetition of the lie that his response merited a 10 out of 10 rating.

Now The Washington Post has published an article that details the “denial and dysfunction” within the Trump administration as the “invisible enemy,” as Trump has taken to calling the virus, first began its invasion of America.

Among the most incriminating evidence of the administration’s failure to realize the magnitude of the crisis that would soon be engulfing the country is the anger with which White House officials greeted Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar when, as early as February 5th, he submitted a supplemental budget request for more than $4 billion to fight the spread of COVID-19, a figure that the skeptical Trump insiders felt was extremely excessive.

According to The Post:

“Azar … spoke to Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during Trump’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. Vought seemed amenable, and told Azar to submit a proposal,” the article states. “Azar did so the next day, drafting a supplemental request for more than $4 billion, a sum that OMB officials and others at the White House greeted as an outrage. Azar arrived at the White House that day for a tense meeting in the Situation Room that erupted in a shouting match, according to three people familiar with the incident.”

“A deputy in the budget office accused Azar of preemptively lobbying Congress for a gigantic sum that White House officials had no interest in granting,” the article added. “Azar bristled at the criticism and defended the need for an emergency infusion. But his standing with White House officials, already shaky before the coronavirus crisis began, was damaged further.”

The now-documented shortsightedness of Donald Trump and his league of scientifically-illiterate political appointees had inspired the classic “penny-wise, pound foolish” decision — as the timely expenditure of $4 billion to help take early steps to prevent the spread of the disease and initiate testing measures could potentially have at least partially offset the $6 trillion and counting expenditure by both Congress and the federal reserve dedicated to trying to salvage an economy devastated with astonishing rapidity by the consequences of the enforced shuttering of non-essential businesses across the country and the concomitant record unemployment numbers.

Indeed, with the sight of bread lines forming within walking distance of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago luxury resort and with New York City on the verge of running short of body bags and morgue capacity for the bodies of coronavirus victims, the damage that the administration’s failure has caused is inestimable.

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You can read more of The Washington Post’s in-depth examination of the White House’s catastrophic failures in the early days of the pandemic response here but remember — while you are reading the rest of the details of Trump’s woefully inadequate handling of the health emergency — that all of this could have been greatly mitigated had the Republican-controlled Senate removed the president when they had the opportunity in the early part of January, so the blame remains equally in their hands.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller at The Washington Post.

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