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Image: President Trump Departs The White House En Route To Capitol For State Of The Union Address
The White House on January 30, 2018.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

How many warnings did Team Trump fail to take seriously?

There's been quite a bit of reporting in recent weeks about warnings Team Trump failed to take seriously before the pandemic.


The New York Times reported overnight on a September 2019 study prepared by White House economists that warned of devastating public-health and economic consequences of a pandemic, but the report "went unheeded inside the administration."

[The 2019 study specifically urged] Americans not to conflate the risks of a typical flu and a pandemic. The existence of that warning undermines administration officials' contentions in recent weeks that no one could have seen the virus damaging the economy as it has. The study was requested by the National Security Council, according to two people familiar with the matter.

If it seems like there have been a lot of reports along these lines, it's not your imagination.

On March 16, Politico reported last week on a presentation prepared for Team Trump during the presidential transition process, which warned the incoming Republican administration about how the U.S. federal government would have to respond to a deadly viral outbreak. It didn't appear to have much of an effect.

On March 19, the New York Times reported on government exercises, including one conducted just last year, warning officials that the country was ill-prepared for a pandemic. As the article explained, an unreleased HHS report described a likely outcome that sounds awfully familiar: "Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own ways on school closings."

On March 20, the Washington Post reported, "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." The Post spoke to one U.S. official who reportedly had access to intelligence reporting and who told the newspaper, "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. The system was blinking red."

On March 25, Politico reported on a National Security Council guide -- the "Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents" -- filled with important recommendations. The Trump administration was briefed on the playbook's existence in 2017, but evidently the document wasn't taken too seriously. The article quoted one former U.S. official who said that under the Trump administration, "it just sat as a document that people worked on that was thrown onto a shelf."

This is not a short list, and it appears to be adding new installments with some regularity.