House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in an interview with Mother Jones that House Democrats are already investigating President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Specifically, Democrats want to know whether Trump ignored warnings from advisors and the intelligence community about the virus in the early days when the U.S. had few or no cases, the Washington Examiner reported.
“When did the intelligence community first start reporting this? What were they telling us, frankly, about the danger of pandemics even before this one? What did they first observe going on in China? When did this first make its way into the president’s daily brief — or get briefed to Congress?” Schiff says Democrats want to know.
Schiff obviously seemed to think Trump did ignore warnings — but then, when hasn’t Schiff leaped to the most incriminating possible conclusion where Trump was concerned?
“So much of the information was in the public realm,” Schiff said. “You had the Chinese reporting the virus. You had the WHO reporting the virus. You had the president’s own people publicly talking about the danger. And even well after the virus was established fact, and it was spreading, and it had come to the United States, you still had the president talking it down, like it was going to be no worse than a flu. And that he had the problem wholly contained, and it was under control,” he said, according to the Examiner.
Although it was not immediately clear whether there had been any early intelligence briefings to Trump about the coronavirus, there has been much talk in recent days about China’s failure to disclose information about the virus in January when it was rapidly spreading there.
In fact, China’s continued underreporting of cases there originally led experts to predict a smaller outbreak in the U.S. and misled leaders about how serious the virus would be. If the U.S. now has over half a million cases of coronavirus, it only stands to reason that China, which has four times the U.S. population, could not possibly have only had 80,000 cases.
Schiff’s armchair quarterbacking hindsight is of course 20-20, considering that even at the end of February Trump’s health experts were on national TV telling the public to go to the movies and live their lives as normal.
In addition, it seems to me that Trump’s comments downplaying the virus were for the purposes of calming stock market jitters rather than lying to the American public. Quite honestly, the death toll numbers for the virus are not expected to exceed the number of annual flu deaths at this point, so was he entirely wrong in his characterization?
Schiff proposes coronavirus commission
Schiff has also introduced legislation to form a bipartisan commission, similar to the 9/11 Commission, with subpoena power to investigate the government’s response after the virus has subsided, The Hill reported.
I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to make Trump look bad for waiting as long as he did to recommend mitigation, because people aren’t likely to look back and remember how far away and small the virus seemed when we only had a few isolated cases reported in late January and early February.
Trump has already begun to lay out the facts and defend his administration’s response as forward-thinking and appropriate. He would be wise to continue to do so and hope that his supporters and other Americans will be able to see that the situation unfolded quickly and he was on top of it all along the way.