‘It was a government of chaos’: Kushner’s coronavirus task force whistleblower says he was pressured to ‘fudge’ death data model

Max Kennedy Jr claims officials said expert models were ‘too severe’

James Crump
Wednesday 23 September 2020 17:21 BST
Jared Kushner calls US coronavirus response a success

The whistleblower who warned the US public about Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force “falling short” in April, has claimed that he was pressured to “create a model fudging the projected number of fatalities” from Covid-19 in the US.

Max Kennedy Jr, the grandson of former attorney general, Robert F Kennedy, told Jane Meyer at The New Yorker earlier this week that he was the employee who sent an anonymous complaint to Congress in April, which claimed the Trump administration's pandemic response was being run with “dangerous incompetence”.

The 26-year-old, who now works for the Democratic Party, wrote in the complaint: “Americans are facing a crisis of tragic proportions, and there is an urgent need for an effective, efficient and bold response. From my few weeks as a volunteer, I believe we are falling short.”

He added: “I am writing to alert my representatives of these challenges and to ask that they do everything possible to help front-line health-care workers and other Americans in need.”

Mr Kennedy told The New Yorker that he sent the complaint while working on the task force, because he “just couldn't sleep,” and was “so distressed and disturbed” by what he had witnessed.

Vice president Mike Pence was placed in charge of the task force in early March, but Mr Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president, joined to help run it later that month, and implemented a group of volunteers to work on sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) for the US.

Mr Kennedy said that he decided to join Mr Kushner’s team of volunteers after a friend recommended it to him, and did it because he thought it “didn't seem political.”

However, when he started the job, he realised that the group of around 20 volunteers had no experience of sourcing and buying medical supplies, and were made up of people from various different fields.

He also told Ms Meyer that he believed he was joining a group of volunteers that would assist another team working on procuring the supplies, but quickly found out that was not the case.

“We were the team,” Mr Kennedy said. “We were the entire front-line team for the federal government.”

Mr Kennedy said that the volunteers had to use their own personal laptops and email addresses, and added that Brad Smith, who was one of the officials running the task force, “pressured” him to “create a model fudging the projected number of fatalities.”

He claimed that Mr Smith told him and his team that the number of projected deaths needed to be revised down, and argued that models from experts were “too severe”.

Mr Kennedy told Ms Meyer that he turned down the request, and added: “I don't know the first thing about disease modelling.”

According to The New Yorker, the task force failed to procure the equipment that the US needed, which created a mass shortage and forced states to battle each other for supplies and reuse PPE.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the US had recorded more than 200,000 deaths and at least 6.8 million cases of Covid-19, but Mr Kushner has described the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic as a “success”.

Mr Kennedy told Ms Meyer that he spoke out about the response, because he believes that “if you see something that might be illegal, and cause thousands of civilian lives to be lost, a person has to speak out.”

He added that the task force “was like a family office meets organised crime, melded with Lord of the Flies. It was a government of chaos.”

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