Obama officials walked Trump aides through global pandemic exercise in 2017: report


The Obama administration walked incoming Trump administration officials through a hypothetical scenario in which a pandemic worse than the 1918 Spanish flu shut down cities like Seoul and London in early 2017, Politico reported.

During the briefing, Trump administration officials were told such a pandemic would likely lead to circumstances such as shortages of ventilators and that a coordinated national response would be “paramount,” according to documents obtained by the publication.

Of the Trump administration officials present during the meeting, about 66 percent no longer serve in the White House, according to Politico.

“The advantage we had under Obama was that during the first four years we had the same White House staff, the same Cabinet,” former Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu, who was present for the meeting, told the publication. “Just having the continuity makes all the difference in the world.”

“Thirty Trump officials attended the exercise (Cabinet and senior White House staff),” Lu added in a tweet on Monday. “But the vast majority of these officials are no longer in government

“When you’re dealing with a crisis like #COVID19, stable and experienced leadership matters.”

“Bottom line: when Trump says “we were all surprised” by #COVID19, he shouldn’t have been,” Lu continued.

“The Obama team warned Trump’s staff about a possible pandemic. Whether it was lack of preparation or staff turnover, the necessary work wasn’t done to get in front of this.”

“We included a pandemic scenario because I believed then, and I have warned since, that emerging infectious disease was likely to pose one of the gravest risks for the new administration,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s national security adviser, wrote in an essay for Foreign Affairs.

Sean Spicer, who served as the administration’s first press secretary and was also present at the meeting, said the exercise was of limited use because the details of real pandemics are rarely as straightforward as such exercises.

“There’s no briefing that can prepare you for a worldwide pandemic,” he told Politico.

Last Friday, former White House national security adviser Susan Rice mentioned the meeting in an op-ed criticizing President Trump for saying “you can never really think” an outbreak akin to the coronavirus “is going to happen.”’

“Rather than heed the warnings, embrace the planning and preserve the structures and budgets that had been bequeathed to him, the president ignored the risk of a pandemic,” Rice wrote.

Updated at 4:14 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Sean Spicer
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