President Donald Trump says the coronavirus “came out of nowhere” and “blindsided the world.” However, the Trump administration had disbanded the NSC Pandemic Unit that experts praised and did not replace them.
The NSC directorate for global health and security and bio-defense survived the transition from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2017.
The NSC during the Obama administration grew to about 250 professionals, according to Trump’s current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien. The staff has been cut to about 110 or 115 staffers.
Trump was asked on Friday whether closing the NSC global health unit slowed the U.S. response to the current Covid-19 epidemic, the president called it a “nasty” question because his administration had acted quickly and saved lives.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Trump said.
Earlier, when asked about it, he said: “This is something that you can never really think is going to happen.”
"I don't take responsibility at all."— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) March 13, 2020
The Trump presidency in one sentence. pic.twitter.com/BgiAtrDtrn
On Saturday, John Bolton, a former Trump national security adviser, dismissed claims that “streamlining NSC structures impaired our nation’s bio defense are false.″ In a tweet, he said global health “remained a top NSC priority, and its expert team was critical to effectively handling the 2018-19 Africa Ebola crisis. The angry Left just can’t stop attacking, even in a crisis.″
For many years, the national intelligence director’s worldwide threat assessment has warned that a flu pandemic or other large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease could lead to massive rates of death and disability that would severely affect the world economy. Public health experts have been blowing whistles too.
Back in mid-2018, Fauci told Congress: “When you have a respiratory virus that can be spread by droplets and aerosol and … there’s a degree of morbidity associated with that, you can have a catastrophe. … The one that we always talk about is the 1918 pandemic, which killed between 50 and 100 million people. … Influenza first, or something like influenza, is the one that keeps me up at night.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, have introduced a bill that would require future administrations to have experts always in place to prepare for new pandemics.
Former Obama administration officials insist that the Trump White House would have been able to act more quickly had the office still been intact.
Ron Klain, who managed the government response to contain and mitigate the spread of Ebola in 2014, agreed.