Aug 31, 2020 - Health

White House coronavirus reports contradict public statements by Trump officials

Trump speaks during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senior Trump administration officials privately warned several states that spikes in coronavirus cases put them in high-risk "red zones" while publicly downplaying the threat of the virus, according to documents released by a special House committee overseeing the coronavirus response.

Why it matters: Democrats have long called for a national plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, while the White House has offered only guidance and insisted that states take the lead.

What the documents say: The eight weeks of reports, released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, detail how each state was fairing amid the pandemic. The reports often contradict what was being said publicly by White House officials, including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

  • In a June 23 report, the White House coronavirus task force privately warned seven states that they remained in the "red zone," indicating the highest risk of coronavirus spread. But just a week earlier, on June 16, Pence claimed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the "panic" over a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases was "overblown."
  • On June 26, Pence said during a televised task force briefing that "all 50 states are opening up safely and responsibly.” But in a private report dated June 29, the White House task force had concluded that 10 states were in the "red zone."
  • Similar contradictions were seen this month. On Aug. 3, President Trump encouraged schools to reopen, tweeting: "Cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well." But in a private report dated Aug. 2, White House officials had warned that 23 states were in the "red zone." By Aug. 9, 48 states and the District of Colombia were in red or yellow zones.

What Democrats are saying: “The Task Force reports released today show the White House has known since June that coronavirus cases were surging across the country and many states were becoming dangerous ‘red zones’ where the virus was spreading fast,” Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. 

  • “Rather than being straight with the American people and creating a national plan to fix the problem, the President and his enablers kept these alarming reports private while publicly downplaying the threat to millions of Americans," Clyburn added.
  • "As a result of the President’s failures, more than 58,000 additional Americans have died since the Task Force first started issuing private warnings, and many of the Task Force’s recommendations still have not been implemented. It is long past time that the Administration finally implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day.”
  • The White House did not immediately comment on the release of the reports.

Go deeper: Read the reports

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