Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner spoke for the first time at the White House’s coronavirus press briefing on Thursday, stepping out from behind the scenes as a key player in the White House coronavirus response.
In his first appearance at the briefing, President Donald’s Trump’s son-in-law said he was taking charge of the White House’s effort to supply states with medical equipment such as masks and ventilators.
Healthcare workers and some governors, most notably New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have criticized the White House for not doing enough to take control of the supply chain to allocate resources, leaving some states bidding against each other for the same equipment amid shortages.
Addressing concerns from states about shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment, Kushner said states don’t know what inventory they have. Behind-the-scenes, he has said that New York doesn’t need as many ventilators as it is requesting, according to Vanity Fair.
Kushner has been working as a point person for the White House coronavirus response since mid-March, the New York Times reported, but hasn’t made any public statements or appearances before Thursday.
Crucial quote: “Some governors you speak to or senators, and they don’t know what’s in their state. You have to take inventory in your own state and you have to show that there’s a real need,” Kushner said.
Key background: After the Trump administration was criticized by public health experts for not acting quickly enough to combat the virus, Kushner came on to coordinate even though he is not a public health expert. His methods have come under scrutiny since then.
To help with research, a family connection—the father of supermodel Karlie Kloss, who is married to Josh Kushner, Jared’s brother— asked a Facebook group of doctors on March 13 how the federal government should respond to the crisis, saying he had a “direct line” to the White House.
Trump also fumed at Jared Kushner for exaggerating the promise of a Google-made website for coronavirus testing, Vanity Fair reported, which led to the president misrepresenting how far along the website was. A company co-founded by Josh Kushner ended up building a similar website that directs people to coronavirus testing options for the government, according to the Atlantc, but the project was scrapped.