KEY POINTS

  • A complaint about Kushner's task force was filed with the House Oversight Committee
  • Key elements of it were confirmed to WaPo by six administration officials
  • It alleges that team is badly matching volunteers to jobs, leading to less PPE secured

President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is spearheading the administration’s effort to fight the coronavirus, but numerous government officials told The Washington Post that the inexperienced volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with very little background in the tasks they were assigned are hampering the effort to obtain supplies for hospitals and accomplish other key tasks needed to fight the virus.

Administration officials say that about two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms have volunteered their time to help. A complaint filed last month with the House Oversight Committee claims that those assigned to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals are poorly matched with the job.

The complaint was obtained by WaPo and key elements were confirmed to them by six administration officials. It alleges that “the team responsible for PPE had little success in helping the government secure such equipment, in part because none of the team members had significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations. In addition, none of the volunteers had relationships with manufacturers or a clear understanding of customs requirements or Food and Drug Administration rules.”

US President Donald Trump's advisor, Jared Kushner said Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas did not want to reach a peace deal US President Donald Trump's advisor, Jared Kushner said Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas did not want to reach a peace deal Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB

The complaint details how volunteers were instructed to fast-track PPE leads from “VIPs,” with many of the VIPs being conservative journalists friendly to the Trump administration. Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News Channel host Jeanine Pirro both reached out to the administration and asked that specific hospitals receive PPE shipments. A Fox News spokeswoman told WaPo that Kilmeade and Pirro were unaware that the administration was prioritizing their tips.

A March internal planning document obtained by The Post and confirmed by one current and one former administration official revealed that 30% of the PPE national stockpile went towards a separate Kushner-led effort to establish drive-through testing sites. Kushner had initially promised thousands of testing sites, but only 78 were ever established and the document states that the stockpile was used to supply 44 of those sites over five to 10 days.

Additionally, the complaint lodged to the House Oversight Committee states that the team of volunteers are struggling to establish relationships with PPE manufacturers because they are using personal e-mail addresses, and not official government ones. Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said “This is the problem with operating off the books. We just don’t know if they’re following the law or not.”

Kushner responded to the allegations in a statement, saying “The bottom line is that this program sourced tens of millions of masks and essential PPE in record time and Americans who needed ventilators received ventilators. These volunteers are true patriots.”

Kushner’s statement did not address the central complaint, which is not about the intentions of the volunteers but their relative inexperience and the administration’s inability to match their skills to specific tasks.

Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious-disease physician, told WaPo “That’s the danger — there may be decisions being made that are not fully informed and that’s going to lead to downstream effects on the response. The people that are volunteering, they are donating their time and we have to be grateful for that, but whoever is supervising them needs to match their skills with what the needs are.”