Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, appeared for the first time at a coronavirus briefing on Thursday after taking on a central role in the federal government’s response to the pandemic despite having no previous medical experience.
Kushner said Thursday that he was working with the “supply chain” task force led by Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is heading up the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to get much-needed medical equipment to states and hospitals to treat patients with COVID-19.
In discussing his work on the coronavirus task force, Kushner said Trump wanted the task force to be “very rigorous” and “wanted to make sure we had the best people doing the best jobs… make sure we had the right people focused on the things that needed to happen… we’re finding all the best thinkers in the country, we’re getting all the best ideas.”
Kushner, who previously ran his family’s real estate business, has no background in medicine and did not have any experience in government before joining the Trump administration in 2016.
“We’ve done things that the federal government has never done before, quicker than they’ve ever done it before,” Kushner said of the task force’s work in the 13 days since Polowczyk joined the federal efforts to address the coronavirus. “We found a lot of supplies in the country. We’ve been distributing them where we anticipate there will be needs.”
Governors have repeatedly criticized a lack of critical medical equipment, such as ventilators, and hospitals and health workers report a shortage of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe while treating patients with the virus.
Kushner insisted Thursday that he was working under the direction of Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House’s efforts to address the pandemic, and talking daily with Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Kushner, who joined the White House pandemic response team in mid-March, was meant to improve coordination of the government’s efforts, reported The New York Times. However, unnamed officials told the Times that Kushner has simply added more confusion.
Kushner also agreed with Trump’s early complaints that the news media was overplaying the danger of coronavirus to disparage the president, the Times reported, citing several unnamed officials.
To The Washington Post last month, Kushner touted his role as bringing an “entrepreneurial approach” to addressing the pandemic, saying “a lot of smart people” are in the private sector.
“We’re getting things done in record speeds and are doing everything possible to avoid damage and mitigate the negative impacts,” Kushner said.
On Thursday, he praised his father-in-law’s response, saying that “the president’s really been very hands-on” and that Trump had “instructed us to leave no stone unturned” in getting supplies to states and hospitals.
The United States has become the epicenter of the coronavirus globally, with more than 240,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 5,000 dead as of Thursday.