LETTER from FRANK WINKLER
To the Editor:
Mike Zagata (column, 3/26-27) wants to defend President Trump and pass the blame to others on ending the Pandemic Response Team. This (like everything else President Obama did), Trump has gone out of his way to destroy.
Trump has never accepted any responsibility for actions under his control. The Trump administration fired the U.S. Pandemic Response Team in 2018 to cut costs.
As editor do as you wish, but readers should be presented something closer to the truth.
Editor’s Note: Frank Winkler attached an article about the issue that appeared on March 18 in USA Today.
It is excerpted here.
WASHINGTON – In May 2018, President Donald Trump’s biodefense preparedness adviser warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s No. 1 health security threat, and the U.S. was not prepared.
“We know that it cannot be stopped at the border,” Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council, said at a symposium that day.
Borio left the Trump administration in 2019. Other high-level global health experts headed for the exits even earlier, after the White House dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office.
The demise of that elite team is now under scrutiny as the Trump administration struggles to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump bristled when asked about his decision to disband the office at a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday.
“I just think it’s a nasty question,” the president responded. “And when you say ‘me,’ I didn’t do it. … I don’t know anything about it.”
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has defended the decision in recent days.
Trump chose Bolton to lead the National Security Council in April 2018. A month later, Bolton nixed the pandemic preparedness office as part of an effort to streamline the agency.
“Claims that streamlining NSC structures impaired our nation’s bio defense are false,” Bolton tweeted Saturday. “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.”
But global health experts say Bolton’s decision left the Trump administration flat-footed in confronting the virus that has caused nearly 6,400 cases of COVID-19 and killed 108 in the U.S. as of Tuesday evening.
“Bolton’s chosen approach to NSC ‘streamlining’ involved decapitating and diluting the White House’s focus on pandemic threats,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a rebuttal. “He eliminated the senior director position entirely, closed the biodefense directorate, and spread the remaining staff across other parts of the NSC.”
Closing the pandemic office “clearly reflected the White House’s misplaced priorities and has proven to be a gross misjudgment,” Konyndyk wrote.