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Unreleased State Department review blames Trump for ‘delayed’ pandemic response: report

An unreleased State Department report on the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic reportedly blames the former president for “delayed” warnings to Americans and a “void of U.S. international leadership.” 

According to excerpts of the State Department’s draft COVID-19 Interim Review obtained by Politico, diplomats and other career agency officials expressed frustrations with former President Trump’s response to the virus. 

The draft document reportedly argues that Trump’s withdrawal from international forums weakened U.S. global leadership in responding to the health crisis. 

Politico reported that State Department officials “identified the void of U.S. international leadership” as early as March 2020 and pushed for greater global engagement, referencing the country’s role in responding to Ebola in 2014. 

However, the draft report notes, “Instead, an over-emphasis on China’s responsibility for the pandemic led to a backwards-looking focus on assigning blame for the virus, which Department research later showed was an ineffective approach to messaging, as the United States repeatedly appeared unwilling to take on greater international leadership to confront the pandemic.”

According to Politico, the draft report also references Trump’s decision to downplay the virus in the early months of the pandemic to avoid a “frenzy,” as revealed in tapes of interviews with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. 

“[T]he decision to reassure Americans of their safety and avoid damaging the economy delayed warnings to American citizens about travel during a pandemic until well after airlines were cutting flights and borders were closing around the world,” the document says, according to Politico. 

The draft report goes on to say, “The United States’ struggle to contain the virus, strident criticism of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multilateral institutions, and the politicized internal debate on science and mitigation measures undermined international trust in U.S. leadership.” 

The report comes just shy of one year after the former Trump administration pulled the United States out of the World Health Organization. The move came after criticism from Trump that the WHO was too slow to sound the alarm on the virus, and accused the health body of being too trusting of China and its handling of the disease. 

Trump has also attacked China over its handling of the virus, blaming the outbreak on the country. He continuously referred to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” among other names. 

Critics and members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have condemned Trump for these remarks and say that his rhetoric surrounding the virus has lead to an outbreak of violence against Asians in America. 

President Biden earlier this year reentered the U.S. into the WHO. 

When contacted by The Hill, State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to comment “on a purportedly leaked report covering the previous administration, especially one that remains in draft and awaits broader input.” 

Price added that Secretary of State Antony Blinken “from his first day in office has prioritized the health and safety of our global workforce, and the State Department has been at the center of the administration’s efforts to combat the virus around the world.”

He went on to say the State Department has provided nearly 200,000 vaccine doses to its workforce, and has also “provided significant life-saving assistance – on a multilateral and bilateral basis – to countries around the world, recognizing that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it poses a threat to people everywhere, including Americans here at home.”

However, Price admitted that “as a Department, we recognize the importance of identifying and accounting for lessons learned – and that includes from episodes that pre-date this administration.” 

“Doing so is part and parcel of our commitment to the security, health, and safety of our workforce,” he added.

The Trump administration has been criticized for a bungled early response to the virus. Audio interviews released from the journalist Woodward revealed that Trump privately called the coronavirus “deadly,” while comparing it to the flu publicly. 

As early as February 2020, Trump told Woodward that the virus was transmitted through germs in the air. 

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward for his book, “Rage.” 

At the start of the pandemic, Trump also claimed publicly that by Easter of 2020 the pandemic would disappear.  

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