Trump News- When top United States officials sit down to determine how to handle the COVID-19 crisis in that country, they have a New Zealander among them.
White House official and ex-pat New Zealand businessman Chris Liddell is among the Trump Administration’s Covid-19 taskforce, which has this week been criticized for that country’s “failure” to manage the health crisis.
By Monday, the United States had more than 3.8 million confirmed cases of the virus.
Liddell, who is also White House deputy chief of staff, is a member of a small committee that was tasked with working out a political strategy for handling the crisis.
As the effects of the virus began to be felt more keenly in April, Liddell worked closely with President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the administration’s procurement and supply-chain experts for personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits, and ventilators.
But the New York Times has criticized Trump and White House aides – including Liddell – for what it said was shifting the responsibility of responding to the pandemic to the states at that crucial time, while Trump focused on restarting the economy.
“They referred to this as ‘state authority handoff,’ and it was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country – perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations,” the New York Times reported.
“Even as a chorus of state officials and health experts warned that the pandemic was far from under control, Mr. Trump went, in a matter of days, from proclaiming that he alone had the authority to decide when the economy would reopen to pushing that responsibility onto the states,” it said.
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While Trump predicted in April there would be “substantially” fewer than 100,000 deaths, there had been 143,000 deaths recorded.
A former healthcare official for the White House, Bob Kocher, said California Governor Gavin Newsom had to call President Trump to ask for testing swabs.
Earlier this month The Washington Post reported healthcare workers were reusing PPE due to a shortage of masks, gowns, face shields, and gloves.
While state officials struggled to get orders filled, White House officials said concerns over PPE shortages were overblown. They said US manufacturing and stockpiles of protective equipment had improved dramatically and were adequate in most states.
Before joining the Trump Administration, Liddell was vice chairman and chief financial officer at General Motors, leading global finance operations and managing the company’s US$23 billion initial public offerings in 2010.
Liddell was also a chief financial officer and senior vice president of Microsoft.
US politics commentator Brendon O’Connor said Trump’s presidency had shown he was not interested in governing and typically blamed others for failures.
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“He hasn’t given enough authority to those with the know-how, like Anthony Fauci [director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases]. He’s underfunded those organizations and undermined them and questioned their decision-making from a basis of ignorance,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that in his opinion, working for the president, as Liddell was, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but several talented people who would be perfect for the job on paper did not want to associate themselves with Trump.
“Most people with any credibility within the system did not want to work for him or be associated with him. So the people he has around them are really the third rate. They’re very much people who would not get jobs in any other administration. Even those people don’t know when they’re going to be fired,” O’Connor said.