In March 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner took on a major role in key aspects of the coronavirus response, despite a lack of related experience and expertise. Kushner’s task force, which relied on private companies to address challenges such as testing and medical-supply shortages, raised questions about undue influence and created confusion among federal officials who were uncertain about the roles of Kushner’s private-sector team members. At the time, Politico reported that “the scope of his authority now exceeds that of Health Secretary Alex Azar.”
American Oversight previously published documents that showed communications Kushner and other top officials had with executives of private companies during the early months of the pandemic. American Oversight has now obtained additional records that show the potential influence wielded by members of the private sector as well as their easy access to top officials, including Kushner and then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in the spring of 2020.
On March 15, 2020, Nat Turner, the CEO of Flatiron Health, sent an “Updated deck on social distancing recommendations” to Kushner as well as to then-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and then-White House Coronavirus Coordinator Deborah Birx. Turner, like Adam Boehler, another task force member, had previously invested in Oscar Health, a company founded and run by Kushner’s brother.
Also on March 15, biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong sent an email to Mnuchin with the subject line, “Executive order to save lives.” Soon-Shiong has been criticized by medical professionals for his brash public persona and tendency to exaggerate the success of his medical technology, and was reportedly considered by Trump prior to Trump’s inauguration as a potential head of the National Institutes of Health. Mnuchin forwarded Soon-Shiong’s email to multiple White House officials, including Kushner.
The documents also include an exchange, forwarded to Mnuchin on March 16, between Vidar Jorgensen, the chairman of the World Health Care Congress, and Alfredo Ortiz, the CEO of the Job Creators Network, who has ties to Trump. Jorgensen had sent an email to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, outlining his concerns about the “overcentralization of the SBA process,” referring to the Small Business Administration. Gingrich looped in Ortiz, who wrote: “We share your exact same concerns and agree. I believe we have a solution which we will be sharing with the Treasury Secretary later today.”
Jorgensen said he supported Ortiz’s solutions, and emphasized that the president should promote “more freedom and lower regulation.” After the emails were forwarded to him, Mnuchin asked Brent McIntosh, Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, to work on “helping SBA” that same day.
Also on March 16, Mnuchin forwarded Kushner an email from Ortiz: “Here is an idea we had we wanted to share with you. The small business loan idea is being finalized and I will send to you later this morning.”
The documents include other instances in which private-sector executives reached Kushner through Mnuchin. On March 15, Mnuchin forwarded Kushner an email from Sen. Lamar Alexander that said that Jimmy Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns and then the CEO of Pilot Flying J truck stops, wanted “to volunteer parking space at many of those sites for testing truckers. He says truckers need to be on the road so people can get the things that they need during this slow down.”
The same day, Robert Vitale, the CEO Of Post Holdings, referenced a call with “Trump, Pence, Mnuchin, and Perdue” and offered suggestions about how to preserve supply chains.
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