I noted in the last post that the U.S. federal stockpile of medical protective gear is almost empty as coronavirus spreads. And everybody is screaming for ventilators. But Trump seems to have his own private stash.
As we work to find out the scope and goals of the White House’s seizure of medical goods across the United States, a simpler pattern is coming into view: the White House seizes goods from public officials and hospitals across the country while doling them out as favors to political allies and favorites, often to great fanfare to boost the popularity of those allies. The Denver Post today editorialized about one of the most egregious examples. Last week, as we reported, a shipment of 500 ventilators to the state of Colorado was intercepted and rerouted by the federal government. Gov. Jared Polis (D) sent a letter pleading for the return of the equipment. Then yesterday President Trump went on Twitter to announce that he was awarding 100 ventilators to Colorado at the behest of Republican Senator Cory Gardner, one of the most endangered Republicans on the ballot this year. As the Post put it, “President Donald Trump is treating life-saving medical equipment as emoluments he can dole out as favors to loyalists. It’s the worst imaginable form of corruption — playing political games with lives.”
We don’t know if the ventilators sent by Trump were part of the shipment that was seized. But there have been reports from several sources of the federal government seizing shipments of medical equipment, and nobody knows what’s happening to it. I mentioned this in a post a couple of days ago. And see Are the Trumps Engaged in Profiteering?
Back to Josh Marshall:
For all the confusion, what is clear is that the federal government is demanding that states, localities and hospital systems find their own supplies while systematically interdicting those they do purchase and rerouting them in other directions while providing no explanation of what standards are being used to distribute them. At the same time, Republican officeholders keep turning up announcing windfalls of medical supplies courtesy of the President. In many cases, like Gardner, they’re Republicans within blue or purple states.
Josh Marshall again, from another post today:
This morning I heard from a board member of a regional private hospital system who said these seizures aren’t just happening. They’re commonplace. Seemingly bordering on routine. To paraphrase this person’s account it’s searching high and low everywhere to find supplies and on those rare occasions when you strike gold the feds are likely to jump in and grab your stuff anyway. Hearing this my sense – not the source’s words – is that it’s almost like FEMA and whatever other agencies are doing this are using these desperate buyers as their involuntary lead generators. Let them find the stuff and when you see a shipping order surface, grab it.
What seems just as likely, or perhaps a minimum version of the story is that the White House has created a highly chaotic and disorganized process and then Trump and Jared Kushner have layered over that a thin blanket of their own corruption, the commerce in favors and mutual back scratching and paydays that are the mother’s milk of Trumpism. Down at the level of FEMA and Customs we heard of one story that seemed highly suspicious at first but when we dug into it was more a story of chaos and craziness but where all the key players were acting reasonably enough in a situation that was highly unreasonable.
But again and again we hear of friends reaching out to Jared or Trump and suddenly getting a shipment. It’s worth noting that one of these cases was some unnamed friend of Trump reaching out about a shortage in the public hospital system in New York City. Trump gave it to Jared and suddenly a shipment was on the way. They talked up this story in that press briefing where Jared was the special guest.
It stinks out loud, in other words.