Has Trump administration overlooked early intelligence reports about Coronavirus pandemic?

  • Intelligence officers shared reports about the virus outbreak which would have helped US to contain the spread

  • US President Donald trump overlooked all these warnings

  • Americans were kept in dark for days

Recently after Beijing authority apologised to Coronavirus whistleblower late Li Wenliang's family for ignoring the alert about the outbreak in Wuhan, US President Donald Trump and lawmakers failed to pay attention to the warnings issued by the US intelligence agencies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic at an early stage.

As per the recent reports US intelligence agencies warned the Trump administration in January and February this year regarding the Coronavirus threat, which has claimed more than 200 lives in US. If the administration heeded all these alerts, it would have helped the country to slow down the spread of the pathogen, revealed US officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

Intelligence reports on Coronavirus outbreak

However, it should be noted that the reports did not mention any timeline related to when the COVID-19 will start spreading in the US. But it recommended safety measures which should have been followed by public health officials. The reports also revealed that the intelligence officials have tracked the COVID-19 spread in other countries as well as in China and found that Chinese officials were able to minimise the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Altogether the reports showed what would be the global scenario if the virus continues to spread which could have helped the officials if they'd considered them early warnings to take action. But Trump administration did not care about it until the virus started to infect people all around the US in a massive way. Even lawmakers took it so lightly at an initial stage.

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Donald Trump Reuters

A US official who had access to intelligence reporting said that the agencies have been warning members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration since January. The official mentioned that "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."

While CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on this matter, Hogan Gidley said in a statement, "President Trump has taken historic, aggressive measures to protect the health, wealth and safety of the American people - and did so, while the media and Democrats chose to only focus on the stupid politics of a sham illegitimate impeachment" and added that ""It's more than disgusting, despicable and disgraceful for cowardly unnamed sources to attempt to rewrite history - it's a clear threat to this great country."

Who is to be blamed for the pandemic?

China and US both the countries played blame games and public health experts in US criticized the Asian country for being slow to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, which emerged in China's Wuhan.

On Friday, March 20 during the White House briefing the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar mentioned that US officials have been alerted to the initial reports of the Coronavirus by discussions that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert R Redfield had with Chinese colleagues on January 3.

richard burr,
US Senator Richard Burr United States Congress

Tracking the Coronavirus

When officials at State Department started tracking reports about the virus, one of the personnel noted that the crisis was discussed at a meeting in the third week of January and Trump's advisers struggled to make the president understand the severity of the Coronavirus, revealed officials with knowledge of the meetings to the US media.

When officials were trying the get White House's attention towards the virus outbreak, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Joe Grogan said that the administration needed to take the virus seriously or it could cost the president his reelection. But at such initial stage, nothing alarmed Trump, as he denied to believe that the virus would spread beyond April.

Coronavirus update: 21 March
John Hopkins University

Later, on February 19 the US president said, "I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus." He also Tweeted that "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," and "Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

But in February, Robert Kadlec, an US physician and the assistant secretary for preparedness and response told that the virus posed a "serious" threat and mentioned the situation as "very alarming," revealed US officials.

When the virus started attacking countries outside China, including Italy, Iran and South Korea, US intelligence agencies tracked the outbreak and majority of the information arrived from public sources, including news reports and official statements but significant information had come from classified intelligence reports.

Ignorance or carelessness?

It should be noted that when a first Coronavirus case was reported in the US, President Trump continued to argue that the risk in US is small. He said, "I think the virus is going to be - it's going to be fine."

Later, he also mentioned, "We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it," and "It's like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we're in very good shape."

Nancy Messonnier, a senior CDC official sounded more significant public alarm in February as she told reporters that the virus was likely to spread within communities in the US. But, as per two senior administration officials, Trump called Azar and while talking about Messonnier's comments, he mentioned that it was scaring the stock markets. Though President Trump has changed the way to portray the Coronavirus issue in public, overlooking such serious global issue showed how a government could keep people in dark.

Related topics : Coronavirus