Why has the U.S. COVID-19 response been so bad? Jared Kushner, Vanity Fair suggests.

President Trump and his White House say they've done a great job responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but by most metrics, including cases and deaths, the U.S. resembles a failed state. Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban "wanted to better understand how the U.S., with its advanced medical systems, unmatched epidemiological know-how, and vaunted regulatory and public health institutions, could have fumbled the crisis so disastrously," she wrote in an article published Thursday. Her pen ended up pointing at Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and overburdened senior adviser.

Specifically, Eban blamed Kushner and his "shadow" coronavirus task force's "quasi-messianic belief in the private sector's ability to respond effectively to the crisis and their contempt for government capabilities." She previously reported that Kushner's team had developed a comprehensive national COVID-19 testing plan — then scrapped it after deciding the coronavirus was a blue-state problem. In her new article, she pieced together the March 21 meeting where everything fell apart, using "recollections, notes, and calendar entries from three people who attended the meeting," the quotations "based on the recollections of one or more individual attendees."

Kushner, seated at the head of the conference table, in a chair taller than all the others, was quick to strike a confrontational tone. "The federal government is not going to lead this response," he announced. "It's up to the states to figure out what they want to do." One attendee explained to Kushner that due to the finite supply of PPE, Americans were bidding against each other and driving prices up. To solve that, businesses eager to help were looking to the federal government for leadership and direction.

"Free markets will solve this," Kushner said dismissively. "That is not the role of government." The same attendee explained that although he believed in open markets, he feared that the system was breaking. As evidence, he pointed to a CNN report about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his desperate call for supplies. ... According to another attendee, Kushner then began to rail against the governor: "Cuomo didn't pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state. ... His people are going to suffer and that's their problem." [Vanity Fair]

"That's when I was like, We're screwed," the attendee told Vanity Fair. Read more about how Kushner and key allies put their faith in consultants, made some shady deals involving Kodak and Russia, and arguably failed America at Vanity Fair.

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