Trump adviser warned of coronavirus threat in January

President Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, reportedly warned his White House colleagues about the threat the novel coronavirus posed to the U.S. public in a memo in late January, when Trump was still publicly downplaying the risk. 

Navarro issued another warning in a second memo in February, estimating that up to 2 million Americans could die from the virus and calling for at least $3 billion to be appropriated to support efforts at prevention, treatment, inoculation and diagnostics, Axios reports

In the first memo, dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council and first reported by The New York Times, Navarro reportedly urged an immediate travel ban on China. The same day as the first memo was sent, Trump formed the White House coronavirus task force.

A few days later, the Trump administration restricted travel from China. 

But Navarro’s strongly worded initial memo, according to the reports, did not match up with the rhetoric Trump was using. The president was still downplaying the threat of the coronavirus outbreak well into February and early March. 

In mid-February, Trump told governors “a lot of people think [the virus] goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in,” and as late as March 9 the president was still comparing the severity of the coronavirus to the “common flu” and signaled businesses would not be shut down. 

In the Feb. 23 memo, which was addressed to the White House and attributed to Navarro but not signed by him, Navarro warns that “this is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill,” Axios reports. 

In his second memo, Navarro estimated that a “full-blown COVID-19 pandemic” could infect as many as 100 million Americans and kill as many as 1.2 million, the Times reports. 

Navarro’s second memo seemed aimed at the White House task force, according to the newspaper. 

“Any member of the Task Force who wants to be cautious about appropriating funds for a crisis that could inflict trillions of dollars in economic damage and take millions of lives has come to the wrong administration,” the memo reportedly said. 

The Trump administration ended up asking Congress for $2.5 billion, an amount Democrats criticized as too low, and in early March approved a $8.3 billion coronavirus package passed by Congress. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Peter Navarro

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