In a videotaped April 18 interview, Kouchner told legendary journalist Bob Ward that Trump was “taking the country behind doctors” in what he called a “negotiated settlement.” Kushner also declared that the United States was moving fast through the “panic phase” and the “pain phase” of the pandemic and that the country was at the “beginning of the return phase.”
“It does not mean that there is not much pain yet and there will be no pain for a while, but that was basically, now we have set rules to get back to work,” Kushner said. “Trump is now in charge. It’s not the doctors.”
The statement reflects a political strategy. Instead of following the advice of health experts, Trump and Kushner focused on what would help the President on Election Day. According to their calculations, Trump would be the “open president”.
Kushner was also a rejection of partisan politics, calling the Republican Party “a collection of many races” and describing the GOP as “a document intended to irritate the people, in essence”. Kushner went on to tell Woodward that Trump made a “completely hostile take” of the Republican Party when he became his presidential candidate.
He also told Woodward, “The most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots” and that Trump had replaced them with “more thoughtful people who know a little bit about their position.”
Kushner’s comments on the administration’s handling of the pandemic underscore the extent to which Trump and Kushner have minimized the public health crisis even when it erupted last spring.
At that time, positive cases in the United States regularly reached about 30,000 a day. On April 15, three days before Kushner’s interview, deaths from Covid-19 peaked at more than 2,600 a day. And hospitalizations for the virus were at their peak, reaching almost 60,000 for several days in April. During this time, New York City still suffered the most from the virus, and fatal increases had not yet occurred in the South and Midwest.
Kushner’s comments reflect what many health experts say at the heart of the administration’s misguided approach to the pandemic – an early push to reopen the country and sideline medical professionals who have led to waves of new infections. during the summer and cases of logging in the fall.
“It was almost like Trump was taking the country behind the doctors. Correctly;” Kushner told Woodward on April 18. “In the sense that what he did now is, you know, he will have the opening.”
The increase in cases was closely monitored by the increase in coronavirus deaths.
This month, 11 states reported the highest death toll since the pandemic began. And while researchers are fighting for a vaccine, it will be months before it is expected to be widely available, and health experts have warned that the public should take the virus seriously in the meantime.
“If we continue our current behavior, when we start going down the other side of the curve, half a million people will be dead,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.
Since its inception in October, 29 U.S. states have reported at least one record number of new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Being a “cheerleader” for the economy
Kushner also described Woodward’s political calculations for the president – instead of coming up with a federal plan to tackle the virus, Trump delegated that responsibility to governors. In an April 18 interview, Kouchner described how he believed Trump had prepared to reap the political benefits of a successful containment of the virus while ensuring that state governors, not the president, would be blamed for any failure to stop the spread.
“States must take the test,” Kouchner said. “The federal government should not hold the tests. And the federal government should not hold the kind of rules. It should be up to the governors, because that is how the federal system works.”
He continued: “But the President is also very smart politically in the way he did this fight with the governors to say basically, no, no, no, no, I have the opening. Once again, the opening will be very popular. People want this country to open up. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, do the governors follow the instructions we set or not? “
In a second interview with Woodward on May 8, Kushner insisted that one of Trump’s tasks to boost the economy was to be a “cheerleader.” Kushner referred to this as caring for “market psychology.”
“So if you’re basically saying this is coming back in the fall, don’t prepare, then people are not going to rejoin, people are going to be unemployed,” Kushner told Woodward. “And if you plan for the worst case scenario, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of the things the President is great at is cheerleading. He tries to make people feel good about the outcome.”
The president himself backed Kushner talking to Woodward about “Rage,” according to another CNN audio clip, calling it “a smart cookie.”
“I told Jared to talk to you, and I think he has,” Trump told Woodward on Feb. 19. Trump said he asked Kouchner to coordinate with others in the administration “so that Bob can talk to anyone he wants. Jared will handle – a very capable man, Jared. You can’t make people like that.”
Activists and “overconfident”
In a conversation with Woodward, Kushner also expressed contempt for the Republican Party and praised his father-in-law’s takeover of the GOP.
“I say he basically made a complete hostile take on the Republican Party,” he said on April 18. “And I don’t think it’s that much about the issues. I think it’s about attitude.”
Calling the political parties “racial rallies”, Kouchner dismissed GOP activists who help set up the platform for the party’s political ideas and aspirations not to reach out to regular voters.
“You know, growing up parties tend to be more exclusive than non-exclusive,” Kushner thought. “And so, you know, you look, like, on the Republican Party platform, it’s a document that is meant, like, to annoy people basically. Because it’s done by activists.”
Months later, during his national convention, the Republican Party refused to update its platform and instead chose to re-select the 2016 platform.
Kouchner’s contempt also extended to those administrators and advisers who had disappointed the President earlier in his term – people whom Kouchner describes as “overconfident idiots.”
“We’ve gotten rid of a lot of overconfident idiots,” he told Woodward. “And now he has a lot more thoughtful people who know their kind and know what to do.”
In “Rage,” Woodward writes that he believed Kushner was referring to former cabinet members and advisers James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn. In a September interview on NBC’s “N Today” show, Kushner claimed that Woodward “abused” him and denied that he had called the three men “overconfident idiots.”