Coronavirus: Trump failed to heed pandemic warnings, former top Obama official says

Susan Rice says her national security team ran exercises with incoming Trump officials on how to respond to pandemic 

Richard Hall
New York
Friday 20 March 2020 22:32
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Susan Rice says Trump failed to prepare for pandemic despite warnings

Former national security advisor Susan Rice has accused Donald Trump of failing to properly prepare for a global pandemic despite ample warnings.

Ms Rice, who played a key role in the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, said her team had briefed incoming Trump officials about the risk of another pandemic during the transition. As part of that effort, her team held an exercise that explored what to do in the case of a global pandemic, she claimed.

“We knew this was a serious and impending risk,” she told CNN. “That’s why under the Obama administration we set up an office for global health security and biodefence. We staffed it with a senior person and made sure they could report directly to the national security advisor and the homeland security advisor. Two years ago that office was dismantled.”

The Trump administration’s decision to disband that office in 2018 has been cited as one reason for the government’s delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Even current Trump officials have said the office had served a useful purpose.

“It would be nice if the office was still there,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases at the national institute of health, told Congress last week. “I wouldn’t necessarily characterise it as a mistake (to eliminate the unit). I would say we worked very well with that office.”

Mr Trump has defended his administration’s response by claiming the coronavirus pandemic “blindsided the world” and “came out of nowhere”.

Ms Rice, who was also US ambassador to the United Nations, said that claim was “false.”

“When you have the president of the United States stand up almost daily and say: ‘Who could have imagined this? Who could have predicted this? We had no idea this could come.’ That’s just false. Not only did we know it could come, we should have prepared for it to come as we did in the Obama administration, and we gave them the wherewithal to do so in the Trump administration.”

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