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Senate Republicans Will Have to Answer for Trump Admin’s Failure to Heed Repeated “Ominous, Classified Warnings” From Intelligence Agencies

Washington Post Report: “U.S. Intelligence Reports From January And February Warned About A Likely Pandemic”

Yet another report — this time from the Washington Post — has exposed the fact that while U.S. intelligence agencies “were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus,” President Donald Trump and Republicans in Washington “played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread” of the virus. Despite a constant flow of intelligence updates on the dire situation in other countries, “Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans.”

According to the Washington Post’s reporting, part of the problem was that the president trusted assurances from China over information from American intelligence agencies.

“Every Senate Republican will have to answer for the Trump administration’s failure to heed repeated ‘ominous, classified’ intelligence warnings about the threat of the coronavirus throughout January and February — as consequences crush our public health system and our economy,” said DSCC spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua. “There’s a reason why the United States was not adequately ready to stop this pandemic threat: Republicans in Washington gutted preparedness efforts to respond to outbreaks like this, then dismissed the alarm bells, downplayed the risks to the public, and now refuse to hold the president accountable.”

Washington Post: U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

By Shane Harris, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima 

March 20, 2020

Key Points: 

  • U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.
  • Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
  • Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.
  • “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”
  • The warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies increased in volume toward the end of January and into early February, said officials familiar with the reports. By then, a majority of the intelligence reporting included in daily briefing papers and digests from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA was about covid-19, said officials who have read the reports.
  • The surge in warnings coincided with a move by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to sell dozens of stocks worth between $628,033 and $1.72 million. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr was privy to virtually all of the highly classified reporting on the coronavirus.
  • Inside the White House, Trump’s advisers struggled to get him to take the virus seriously, according to multiple officials with knowledge of meetings among those advisers and with the president.
  • Azar couldn’t get through to Trump to speak with him about the virus until Jan. 18, according to two senior administration officials. When he reached Trump by phone, the president interjected to ask about vaping and when flavored vaping products would be back on the market, the senior administration officials said.
  • In early briefings, however, officials said Trump was dismissive because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.
  • Trump’s insistence on the contrary seemed to rest in his relationship with China’s President Xi Jingping, whom Trump believed was providing him with reliable information about how the virus was spreading in China, despite reports from intelligence agencies that Chinese officials were not being candid about the true scale of the crisis.
  • Some of Trump’s advisers told him that Beijing was not providing accurate numbers of people who were infected or who had died, according to administration officials. Rather than press China to be more forthcoming, Trump publicly praised its response.
  • Trump eventually changed his tone after being shown statistical models about the spread of the virus from other countries and hearing directly from Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, as well as from chief executives last week rattled by a plunge in the stock market, said people ­familiar with Trump’s conversations.
  • But by then, the signs pointing to a major outbreak in the United States were everywhere.

Read the full story.

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