Jared Kushner’s volunteer force in charge of helping obtain critical personal protective equipment for healthcare workers had little experience working with government contracts or medical supplies, according to a whistleblower memo.
The New York Times reports the volunteers leading the Trump administration’s supply chain task force were charged with reviewing leads from people claiming they could provide protective gear. They were told to send only the best leads to FEMA officials for additional review.
But the volunteers had no experience vetting the submissions. They were also told to prioritize tips from allies and friends of the president, which led to legitimate sources of supplies being ignored.
The newspaper said volunteers were told to take tips from a spreadsheet called “V.I.P. Update,” and prioritize them. One of the names on the list was Trump youth activist Charlie Kirk, another was a former “Apprentice” contestant, according to The New York Times.
Few of the leads, VIP or otherwise, resulted in securing any supplies, according to the whistleblower memo written by one of the volunteers and sent to the House Oversight Committee.
The Washington Post first broke news of the memo on Tuesday.
“Americans are facing a crisis of tragic proportions and there is an urgent need for an effective, efficient and bold response,” reads the complaint, which was sent to the committee on April 8. “From my few weeks as a volunteer, I believe we are falling short. 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.”
“The nature and scale of the response seemed grossly inadequate,” the volunteer told The New York Times. “It was bureaucratic cycles of chaos.”
The whistleblower said the volunteers were often confused and overwhelmed by their job. Even though they worked around the clock, the memo states the volunteers had little to show for their work.
Instead of allowing officials familiar with emergency planning, the volunteers were brought in by Kushner. They were supposed to bring their private sector experience and business acumen to determine which leads were good and which were bad.
“There’s an old saying in emergency management — disaster is the wrong time to exchange business cards,” Tim Manning, a former deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the newspaper. “And it’s absolutely the wrong time to make up new procedures.”
Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks said he had access to 1 million masks, so he reached out to FEMA to help. His information was sent to the volunteer squad.
“When I offered them viable leads at viable prices from an approved vendor, they kept passing me down the line and made terrible deals instead,” Dr. Hendricks said.
The federal government’s supplies were running low, and Dr. Hendricks said he never heard back on his offer. He has since sold supplies to hospitals in Michigan and other places.
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