Trump discussed sending infected Americans to Guantanamo Bay: book
Former President Trump reportedly suggested sending Americans infected with COVID-19 to Guantanamo Bay in an effort to stem the rapidly growing number of cases on U.S. soil in the early days of the pandemic, according to a new book.
Trump, during a February 2020 meeting in the Situation Room as administration officials were discussing whether to bring infected Americans home for care, reportedly asked the attendees “Don’t we have an island that we own?” and “What about Guantánamo?”
“We import goods,” Trump reportedly said to his staff, adding, “We are not going to import a virus.”
The new details come from “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” authored by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta. The authors interviewed more than 180 people, including a number of White House senior staff members and government health leaders.
The book is set to be published June 29.
Aides, according to the Post, were reportedly stunned by Trump’s suggestion to quarantine American tourists on the same base where the U.S. detains terrorism suspects.
They quickly sunk the idea when the president mentioned it a second time.
The book also reveals Trump’s reaction to the testing crisis that bogged the country’s initial response to the virus.
“Testing is killing me!” Trump reportedly told then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a phone call on March 18. Trump was yelling so loud that aides were said to have overheard every word of the conversation.
“I’m going to lose the election because of testing! What idiot had the federal government do testing?” Trump exclaimed.
“Uh, do you mean Jared?” Azar responded, according to the Post, referring to the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who five days earlier said he would spearhead the country’s testing strategy by enlisting the help of the private sector.
Trump said the U.S. government should not have taken a role in testing and argued with Azar about why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wanted to track cases.
“This was gross incompetence to let CDC develop a test,” Trump reportedly said to Azar.
The book also outlines the former president’s battles with a number of officials in his administration, including his calls to fire a senior State Department official and Robert Kadlec, the then-emergency preparedness chief at the Department of Health and Human Services.
He reportedly wanted to fire the officials because they played a role in allowing 14 coronavirus infected Americans who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship to return to the U.S.
At one point, the president also reportedly pushed to replace Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, after he refused to speed up the approval of vaccines before the election instead of tossing the matter to FDA officials.
The authors write that the COVID-19 response turned into “a toxic environment in which no matter where you turned, someone was ready to rip your head off or threatening to fire you,” according to the Post.