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Trump Inc – a podcast series from ProPublica and WNYC – #51 – He Went To Jared

24/05/2020

About this episode – He Went to Jared

 On April 2, Jared Kushner uncharacteristically took to the podium to speak at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing. He’d been given the task, he said, of assisting Vice President Mike Pence’s Coronavirus Task Force with supply chain issues. “The president,” Kushner said, “wanted us to make sure we think outside the box, make sure we’re finding all the best thinkers in the country, making sure we’re getting all the best ideas, and that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that we can keep Americans safe.”

That very day, he said, President Donald Trump told him that “he was hearing from friends of his in New York that the New York public hospital system was running low on critical supply.” So Kushner called Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs the 12-hospital system, which serves, in a normal year, over a million patients. Kushner said he’d asked Katz which supply he was most nervous about: “He told me it was the N95 masks. I asked what his daily burn was. And I basically got that number.”

In a chaotic environment, the New Jersey boy turned Manhattan businessman turned senior White House adviser is using his clout to help the cities and states at the epicenter of a global pandemic get the aid they need.

Yet there’s another side to the equation. Kushner’s role is also a symptom of the dysfunction of the Trump administration, according to critics, some of whom worked in emergency management under Republican and Democratic administrations. The ad hoc nature of Kushner’s mission and its lack of transparency make it hard for people — and government agencies — to know exactly what he’s doing. So far, those officials say, there’s little sign Kushner or anyone at the White House is helping New York or New Jersey with their urgent longer-term needs, particularly more testing and billions from Congress to ease the gaping holes that have emerged in local budgets.

”If you can reach Jared, if you can applaud Jared, if you can convince him that you’re the most needy, he will deliver for you,” said Juliette Kayyem, faculty chair of the homeland security project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former assistant secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration. But his role bypasses long-held tenets of how the federal government should work in a national emergency, she said, without addressing systemic problems, much less reinventing the bureaucracy. “What’s outside the box? What process is outside the box? It can’t possibly be Kushner’s [giving out his] cellphone number,” Kayyem said. “But that’s what it appears to be.”

Read the text version of this story at ProPublica.

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About the series

Podcasts are a good form for presenting the surreality of this era, Eric Umansky, an editor at ProPublica, told me recently. “You can capture the absurdity in ways that you can’t in text,” he said. The excellent investigative podcast that he works on, “Trump Inc.,” from WNYC and ProPublica, began in February and concludes next week. Its premise is at once straightforward and audacious: it asks big, specific questions about Donald Trump’s famously mysterious business dealings, including those concerning possible connections between his Presidency and his profits; investigates them; and encourages listeners to pitch in and help. It features several personable, savvy-sounding reporters: Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, of WNYC, and Jesse Eisinger and Heather Vogell, of ProPublica, and it has a collaborative spirit. Reporters from other outlets (including The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson) offer additional information and insights. One episode features David Fahrenthold, of the Washington Post, answering listener questions; another was inspired by a comment that Fahrenthold made about Trump suing local municipalities in which he had businesses; a listener tip resulted in a mini-episode about Trump commissioning golf-tee markers with the Presidential seal on them. Umansky told me that one “superfan” listener “went to the courthouse in Westchester to look up cases for us.” Everybody gets to be a detective. Or, as the show’s Web site puts it, “Help Us Dive Into the Swamp.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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