Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, and senior advisor told journalist Bob Woodward the president was taking the country "back from the doctors" in mid-April, even as the coronavirus was ravaging New York City at the time. In the months since then, the virus has continued spreading across the country. On Friday, 95,583 new cases were reported, setting another new daily case count record.
In a recorded conversation with Woodward on April 18 and published on CNN Wednesday, Kushner said Trump was "getting the country back from doctors" in a "negotiated settlement." Kushner, who has no medical background, said he saw "three phases" in the pandemic and the U.S. was already moving through the "panic" and "pain" phases quickly. He believed the country was already starting the "comeback" phase.
"That doesn't mean there's not still a lot of pain and there won't be pain for a while, but that basically was, we've now put out rules to get back to work," Kushner told Woodward. "Trump's now back in charge. It's not the doctors. They've kind of – we have, like, a negotiated settlement." The interview was recorded while Woodward was reporting for his book Rage. Woodward also spoke with Kushner in May.
Kushner also seemed dismissive of Republican party politics, calling Trump's party a "collection of a bunch of tribes" and said its platform was "a document meant to, like, piss people off, basically." Trump did a "full hostile takeover" of the party, Kushner said. He called people around the president "over-confident idiots" and said Trump replaced them with "more thoughtful people who kind of know their place."
When Kushner spoke with Woodward in April, the U.S. was averaging about 30,000 new cases per day. New York was facing the worst of the pandemic, as a deadly surge had not hit the South and Midwest yet. On Friday, Oct. 30, there were 98,583 new infections reported, the most in a single day so far, reports NBC News. There were 978 new deaths reported Friday. The death toll since the pandemic began has passed 230,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Despite the jump in numbers, Trump has repeatedly said the country is "rounding the corner" in the pandemic.
In his April interview, Kushner made a case for states handling testing, not the federal government. He said it had to be up to the governors, not the federal government, "because that's the way the federalist system works." He later said Trump "is very smart politically with the way he did that fight with the governors to basically say, no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country open. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, did the governors follow the guidelines we set out or not?"
In a Thursday interview with CNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said he believed there was a "pivot" away from public health issues to focus on re-opening the country in the White House. "If things do not change... if they continue on the course we're on; there's going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations and deaths," Fauci said. "We are on a very difficult trajectory."