Rage by Bob Woodard

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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:52 pm

Redfield was beyond frustration. Each day counted. On January 6 he converted his January 4 email word-for-word to a formal letter to Gao on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services letterhead. Redfield figured the formal letter would give Gao some ammunition with his superiors. The Chinese sat on it.

Redfield pinged Gao through the U.S. embassy in Beijing asking if there was a response. Can we come to China? The answer came back: Thanks again for the offer.

What’s going on? Redfield complained to Fauci. They weren’t getting a yes and they weren’t getting a no. From his past relationship with Gao, he did not expect this. He tried everything to get an affirmative invitation. Nothing.

They were at the most critical stage. He needed on-the-ground data.

One explanation, Redfield and Fauci agreed, was that the Chinese are proud, with sophisticated medical doctors and equipment, and probably felt they didn’t need help from anybody else. Fauci threw up his hands. Here we go again. China being China—remote, aloof
and secretive. Since they knew of no cases of the strange pneumonia in the United States, it would be hard to press much harder.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:53 pm

The CDC Situational Report for January 13 alerted readers that “Thailand reported a confirmed case of nCoV in a traveler from Wuhan City to Thailand. This is the first infection with novel coronavirus 2019 detected outside China.”

That report hit Redfield hard. It told him, almost for sure, that there was human-to-human spread and the disease was being carried outside China.

Meanwhile, Redfield had another phone conversation with Gao. You can’t believe what’s going on over here, Gao said. It’s much, much worse than you’re hearing.

Holy shit, Fauci said. They haven’t been telling us the truth. It is really transmitting efficiently.

The CDC began developing a diagnostic test and issuing warnings for airports and ports of entry to the U.S. about travelers from Wuhan. It held a call with over 300 attendees from state and local health departments in the U.S.

On January 15, the CDC Situational Report hedged, saying:

“Some limited human-to-human spread may have occurred.… The possibility of limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, but the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is low.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:54 pm

Pottinger, who had begun making his own calls to sources from his days as a Wall Street Journal reporter on SARS, told Redfield he was gathering evidence not only of human-to-human spread but also asymptomatic spread, meaning a person without symptoms could be a carrier and infect others. Was it possible that a former journalist would get to the bottom of the new virus faster than the doctors? Redfield wondered. They would have to wait and see.

On January 17, Redfield activated the entire CDC and assigned thousands of his staff to work on the new virus. Screening of travelers from Wuhan began at airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He feared the greatest health crisis since 1918 might be upon them.

Pottinger also calculated the death rate for Hubei province, whose capital was Wuhan, could be six times normal. He based his estimate not on information from the intel community or reported death rates out of China, but from Chinese social media and phone conversations with people on the ground. He determined this could translate into thousands more deaths in Wuhan in one month.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:57 pm

I asked Trump about his decision making in foreign policy. He told me he was working with the Turkish leader on the war in Syria.

“I get along very well with Erdogan, even though you’re not supposed to because everyone says ‘What a horrible guy,’ ” Trump said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a repressive leader with a terrible record on human rights. “But for me it works out good. It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?”

That might not be difficult, I thought, but I didn’t say anything.

“But maybe it’s not a bad thing,” he continued. “The easy ones are the ones I maybe don’t like as much or don’t get along with as much.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:00 pm

Trump told me about a dinner he’d hosted. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon who purchased The Washington Post in 2013, had attended. He said he’d pulled Bezos aside, or possibly called him the next day, and said, “Jeff, you don’t have to treat me good. But just treat me fairly. When I do something great, say it’s great. When I do something good, say it’s good. And when I do something bad, knock the hell out of me.”

Oh, I never get involved, Bezos had said, according to Trump. He played no role in The Washington Post’s news coverage of Trump or anything else.

“What do you mean you don’t get involved?” Trump said. You’re losing millions a year on the newspaper. “Of course you get involved.”

The Post was not losing money and has apparently been a profitable business under Bezos’s ownership.

Bezos had insisted he never got involved.

I had known Bezos for more than 20 years and worked at the Post for 49 years. I told Trump that I believed that was true. There was an iron curtain between the newsroom and ownership.

“Hard to believe,” Trump said. “If I really knew it was true, I’d treat him much differently. Because I haven’t been very nice to him, you know.” The Washington Post’s strong independence from Bezos seemed to genuinely strain credulity for Trump. “It’s just hard for me. Maybe it’s a different personality. But it’s hard for me to believe.”




“Well, I hope so, but it’s going to be the case,” Trump said. He wondered aloud which paper was “more dishonest,” The Washington Post or The New York Times. “Hard to believe that Jeff Bezos is not controlling what’s happening.” It was clear that if Trump had owned a newspaper, he would be actively involved.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:02 pm

The virus now appeared to be spreading like crazy. On January 24, Chinese scientists finally published a report in The Lancet, perhaps the world’s most respected medical journal, stating “evidence so far indicates human transmission” of the coronavirus.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, called his counterpart, Ma Xiaowei, the Chinese health minister the morning of January 27. Pottinger was on the call. Nearly a month had passed since the first reports from China.

Can we send our guys in? Azar asked. Let us do it. We’ve got experts. We can provide support. We can help. Let’s share samples. World Health Organization rules required that samples be shared. Just you say it, they’re ready to go. Their bags are packed.

Thank you very much, said Ma. It’s great to hear from you. We’ll look at it.

No answer followed. Azar was angry, but avoided any open disagreement and tweeted that he “conveyed our appreciation for China’s efforts.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:06 pm

Azar, Redfield and Fauci were recommending strong travel restrictions on China.

Mick Mulvaney, a 52-year-old conservative former congressman with a gentle style who had been acting White House chief of staff for a year, said he thought they might consider some unintended consequences.

What’s going to happen to the stock market? Mulvaney asked. What’s going to happen with the tenuous trade relationship? The overall relationship with China? Would the Chinese retaliate? There would be things that might happen that we are not anticipating.

The consensus from the three health officials was that if there was an outbreak in the United States, the consequences of not restricting travel from China might be worse.

“Are you guys comfortable with this?” Trump asked.

They were.

Do you feel confident that this is the way to go?

Yes.

“Tony, are you sure, now?” he asked of Fauci.

“Yes, Mr. President,” Fauci said. “I think this is the only way we’ve got to go right now.”

Almost speaking in one voice the three reiterated that we have to prevent American citizens returning from China from causing infections here. So the Americans would have to be quarantined for 14 days so if they are infected they would pass the incubation period.

“Okay,” Trump said. “That’s fine.” He looked at O’Brien and Pottinger, who were in the back in the Oval Office away from the desk. “Are you guys okay with this?”

O’Brien said he was.

“Absolutely,” said Pottinger, the hawk. “This is the only way to go.”

Trump gave his final approval, and Azar, Redfield and Fauci went out to announce the Chinese travel restrictions in the White House press room.

Redfield spoke first. “This is a serious health situation in China, but I want to emphasize that the risk to the American public currently is low.” He repeated himself for emphasis. “We have confirmed six cases of this novel virus in the United States. The most recent case had no travel history to China.”

China was reporting 9,700 cases and more than 200 deaths.

Fauci twice said there were lots of unknowns. “We still have a low risk to the American public.”

Finally, Azar spoke. “Today President Trump took decisive action to minimize the risk of the spread of novel coronavirus in the United States,” he announced. “I have today declared
Fauci knew from a report from Germany that asymptomatic spread “is absolutely the case.” The German report, printed as a letter to the editor on the New England Journal of Medicine’s website on January 30, stated, “The fact that asymptomatic persons are potential sources of 2019-NCoV infection may warrant a reassessment of transmission dynamics of the current outbreak.” The language was technical and understated, but the message about the dangers posed by asymptomatic spread was clear.

Azar, Redfield and Fauci were recommending strong travel restrictions on China.

Mick Mulvaney, a 52-year-old conservative former congressman with a gentle style who had been acting White House chief of staff for a year, said he thought they might consider some unintended consequences.

What’s going to happen to the stock market? Mulvaney asked. What’s going to happen with the tenuous trade relationship? The overall relationship with China? Would the Chinese retaliate? There would be things that might happen that we are not anticipating.

The consensus from the three health officials was that if there was an outbreak in the United States, the consequences of not restricting travel from China might be worse.

“Are you guys comfortable with this?” Trump asked.

They were.

Do you feel confident that this is the way to go?

Yes.

“Tony, are you sure, now?” he asked of Fauci.

“Yes, Mr. President,” Fauci said. “I think this is the only way we’ve got to go right now.”

Almost speaking in one voice the three reiterated that we have to prevent American citizens returning from China from causing infections here. So the Americans would have to be quarantined for 14 days so if they are infected they would pass the incubation period.

“Okay,” Trump said. “That’s fine.” He looked at O’Brien and Pottinger, who were in the back in the Oval Office away from the desk. “Are you guys okay with this?”

O’Brien said he was.

“Absolutely,” said Pottinger, the hawk. “This is the only way to go.”

Trump gave his final approval, and Azar, Redfield and Fauci went out to announce the Chinese travel restrictions in the White House press room.

Redfield spoke first. “This is a serious health situation in China, but I want to emphasize that the risk to the American public currently is low.” He repeated himself for emphasis. “We have confirmed six cases of this novel virus in the United States. The most recent case had no travel history to China.”

China was reporting 9,700 cases and more than 200 deaths.

Fauci twice said there were lots of unknowns. “We still have a low risk to the American public.”

Finally, Azar spoke. “Today President Trump took decisive action to minimize the risk of the spread of novel coronavirus in the United States,” he announced. “I have today declared that the coronavirus presents a public health emergency in the United States.” He said that U.S. citizens returning from China would undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine, and that Trump had signed a presidential proclamation “temporarily suspending the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus”—namely foreign nationals who had traveled in China within the last 14 days. Azar called the measure “prudent, targeted and temporary” and stressed once more that “the risk of infection for Americans remains low.”

“Administration Elevates Response to Coronavirus, Quarantines, Travel Restrictions” ran the headline of the lead story in The Washington Post the next day, pushing impeachment aside. In The New York Times the news appeared below the fold, headlined, “Declaring Health Emergency, U.S. Restricts Travel from China.”

Despite the conclusive evidence that at least five people wanted the restrictions—Fauci, Azar, Redfield, O’Brien and Pottinger—in an interview March 19, President Trump told me he deserved exclusive credit for the travel restrictions from China. “I had 21 people in my office, in the Oval Office, and of the 21 there was one person that said we have to close it down. That was me. Nobody wanted to because it was too early.”

On May 6, he told me, “And let me tell you, I had a room of 20 to 21 people and everyone in that room except me did not want to have that ban.”

At least seven times, including a press briefing, a televised town hall, interviews on Fox News and ABC and in meetings with industry executives and Republican lawmakers, he has repeated versions of this story.

Even when he made what appears to have been a tough and sound decision on the advice of his top national security and medical experts, he wanted—and took—all the credit for himself.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:08 pm

In total, 10 Republican senators who voted to acquit said in statements or interviews Trump’s actions were wrong, improper or inappropriate. “Let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said. “I believe that delaying the aid was inappropriate and wrong.”

The president had won the votes of these Republicans, but not their approval.

Former DNI and senator Dan Coats, out of the administration for five months, watched Trump’s impeachment with few illusions. He felt he understood the Senate far better than the intelligence world or the White House. He was sure every senator up there, including the Republicans, knew what had transpired. Trump obviously had pushed for an investigation of the Bidens and had delayed or stymied the aid to Ukraine. Was this sufficient to remove Trump from office? It was possible to argue either way. But to remove a president with a such a strong base in their party was pretty much unthinkable. A shrinking minority of Republicans genuinely supported Trump. The others had made a political survival decision.

With all the “formers” attached to his name, Coats did not want to be the person to speak out and say, “Hey, you guys got to stand up.” So he remained silent.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:11 pm

That weekend, on February 9, Fauci, Redfield and other members of the Coronavirus Task Force took their seats at a table in a large conference room in Washington. Over 25 state governors, in town for a National Governors Association meeting and scheduled to attend a black-tie dinner with Trump later that night, had asked for a briefing on the coronavirus. Sitting at three long tables in a U-shaped layout, the governors wanted guidance and seemed to be looking for the inside story.

The coronavirus outbreak is going to get much, much worse before it gets better, Redfield warned.

We have not even seen the beginning of the worst, Redfield said, letting his words sink in. There is no reason to believe that what’s happening in China is not going to happen here, he said. There were nearly 40,000 cases in China then, with more than 800 deaths, barely five weeks after announcing the first cases.

I agree completely, Fauci told the governors. This is very serious business. You need to be prepared for problems in your cities and your states. Fauci could see the alarm on the governors’ faces.

“I think we scared the shit out of them,” Fauci said after the meeting.

The official press release from the Department of Health and Human Services describing the meeting read: “The panel reiterated that while this is a serious public health matter, the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and that the federal government will continue working in close coordination with state and local governments to keep it that way.”

The next day, President Trump said publicly three times—once at the White House, once on TV and once at a New Hampshire rally—that the virus would go away on its own. “When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” he said at the packed rally. “I think it’s going to work out good. We only have 11 cases and they’re all getting better.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:11 pm

Fauci attended a public conference in Aspen, Colorado, on February 11. The moderator, Helen Branswell of STAT News, a well-respected science news outlet, said, “You’ve been quite vocal about wanting more information out of China. What would you like to get your hands on?”

“We really need to know the scope of this,” Fauci said. “The degree of asymptomatic transmission” would be the crucial piece of information. “That has a real impact on how you make certain policy decisions.” If people who didn’t show symptoms were giving others the disease, it would be much harder to contain.

Fauci repeated several times that the virus was low-risk. Clearly skeptical, Branswell said, “Explain to me why the risk is low. Because to me, when I look at this virus, it’s spreading very efficiently.”

“It’s the message,” Fauci said frankly. Americans didn’t need to be frightened. “Right now we have 13 people.” But again he hedged: “Is there a risk that this is going to turn into a global pandemic? Absolutely, yes.”

Branswell asked about the danger of possibly downplaying the risk the virus posed to the U.S.

Fauci said, “The risk is really relatively low.” He posed a hypothetical: How would it be, he asked, if he got up and said, “ ‘I’m telling you we’ve really, really got a big risk of getting completely wiped out,’ and then nothing happens?” Then, he said, “your credibility is gone.”

Fauci knew he was walking the finest of lines. The U.S. would never shut down with so few cases. If he proposed extreme remedies too soon, not only would he lose his credibility, but no one would listen or take action.

He didn’t say it, but he thought, “Take a look at what’s happening in China.” The outbreak was severe.

During this period, from February 11 to 14, Trump repeatedly said the U.S. had only about 12 cases.

At an event a week later at the Council on Foreign Relations, Fauci was again the voice of reassurance. “To our knowledge, there aren’t individuals in society in the United States that are infected” who aren’t travel-related, he said. “We don’t think so.” But he added, “We don’t know 100 percent, because they could have kind of come in under the radar screen.”

Asked by another panel member to reiterate that the public should not be buying respirator masks needed by health care workers, Fauci laughed. “I don’t want to denigrate people who walk around wearing masks” but masks, he said, should be worn by sick people. “Put a mask on them, not yourself.” He later added, to laughter from the audience, “I don’t want to be pejorative against cruise ships, but if there’s one thing you don’t want to do right now, it’s to take a cruise in Asia.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:13 pm

Anyone who has watched Trump’s press conferences knows how he avoids issues, splits hairs and won’t deal with hard questions. This is only amplified in a one-on-one setting—that maddening, convoluted dodging that drove Mattis, Tillerson, Coats and others crazy
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:16 pm

In late February, China finally allowed World Health Organization scientists to enter the country to investigate. Redfield had wanted to send his team of investigators but only one CDC official was allowed in the group. Fauci’s deputy director, Dr. Clifford Lane, was the only other American allowed to join the delegation to China from February 16 to February 24. The report released by the group indicated that asymptomatic infection was “relatively rare and does not appear to be a major driver of transmission” and praised China for “perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

Lane, who had never before been to China and had no experience with Chinese handlers, reported personally to Fauci that there was a lot of disease there and it was spreading rapidly. But he said the Chinese seemed to be doing everything they could to contain the virus. Everything was locked down. No one was allowed out of their apartment except for food. Sick and healthy people alike were locked in their homes. If they decided to go out for something other than food, their neighbors would report them to the police, who would then come and question them. It was absolute, with almost no concern for human rights.

Lane also said he’d been impressed with the high-tech capabilities of the hospitals in Beijing. But neither American on the delegation had been allowed into Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.

The WHO report contained a stark warning: “Much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset and materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain Covid-19 in China. These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimize” the spread of the coronavirus. Those measures included surveillance, public engagement, cancellation of mass gatherings, traffic controls, rapid diagnosis, immediate case isolation, and “rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts.”
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