Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior adviser of President Donald Trump, privately bragged to journalist Bob Woodward in April about the president’s decision to shun the advice and opinions of health experts, just as the death rate from the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. was reaching peak levels.
“It was almost like Trump getting the country back from the doctors. Right?” Kushner said in recorded conversations with Woodward. “In the sense that what he now did was, you know, he’s going to own the open-up.”
“Trump’s now back in charge,” Kushner also said. “It’s not the doctors.”
Kushner claimed that the U.S. was moving through the “panic” and “pain” phases of the pandemic, and experiencing the “beginning of the comeback phase” by reopening — a direction that was widely criticized at the time.
As Kushner made these comments, the seven-day average of daily deaths related to COVID-19 was above 2,200 per day. There were 754,037 coronavirus cases documented at the time, a figure that would double a month later and triple by mid-June.
As of Thursday morning, the U.S. has counted more than 9.1 million cases of coronavirus, and 233,137 Americans have perished from the virus so far. Most of those deaths (more than 193,000 of them) occurred in the months after Kushner spoke to Woodward, contradicting his assertion that the nation was moving out of the “pain” phase more than six months ago.
Woodward’s tapes also show that Kushner reviled some aspects of the Republican Party, which he described as a “collection of a bunch of tribes.” Kushner also dismissed the party platform as “a document meant to, like, piss people off, basically.”
Kushner also justified Trump’s decision to distance himself from those who dared to disagree with him. “The most dangerous people around the President are over-confident idiots,” Kushner said. Trump replaced those individuals with “people who kind of know their place,” he added.
The recordings also show Trump’s presidential adviser to be more concerned with the potential political fallout from a recession related to the pandemic than he was with protecting the health of the American people, reinforcing what previous reports have indicated about the administration’s self-interested approach to the COVID crisis.
That approach has largely backfired for the president, as Trump’s approval ratings on his handling of the coronavirus (and in general) have soured significantly in the months since Kushner spoke to Woodward. Kushner’s comments are unlikely to help Trump’s reelection chances in the final week of the 2020 presidential campaign, as several states’ polls show the president trailing against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.