“Obnoxious know-it-alls” Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner hijacked the nation’s first major response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year just as deaths from the disease were escalating — and botched it, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham reveals in her new book.
The couple, who had no experience in government or with government policy, had no business being top White House advisers to then-President Donald Trump, Grisham wrote in her book, “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” according to an excerpt published Friday by Politico.
When Grisham initially worked as Melania Trump’s press secretary, “we had all” — including the first lady — “come to call Jared and Ivanka ‘the interns’ because they represented in our minds obnoxious, entitled know-it-alls,” she recounted.
As the coronavirus pandemic — “one of the most important crises to hit the country in a century” — emerged, the “interns were behaving true to form,” Grisham added.
After the World Health Organization first declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, the couple insisted in an Oval Office meeting that Donald Trump deliver a televised address to the nation, according to Grisham.
“Ivanka kept chiming in, ‘But I think there should probably be an address to the nation tonight,’” Grisham wrote. “Finally, Ivanka turned to her most powerful ally besides her father. ‘Jared, don’t you agree?’”
Then the push was on. The big question: What was the message?”
Eventually, Donald Trump directed everyone — including Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci — to exit into the Cabinet Room and “figure out what to do,” according to the former press secretary.
Kushner, who was “sitting next to the vice president of the United States, commandeered the meeting and was calling all the shots,” Grisham recalled.
“As many times as I had seen him behave that way with members of senior staff, that particular time made me uneasy because it was with the vice president. It was disrespectful, and I remember feeling both embarrassed and disgusted,” she added.
Despite Kushner’s power in the White House, he “was not an expert on anything he advised — shutting down borders, the economic consequences, the health consequences — yet he alone seemed to be deciding the nation’s first actions to address one of the most devastating crises in our history,” Grisham wrote.
Meanwhile, “Ivanka was also doing her ‘my father’ wants this and ‘my father’ thinks that routine, making it impossible for staff members to argue a contrary view,” she noted.
Kushner ended up writing Trump’s speech, but it included a “number of misstatements and sloppy wording,” and it “sowed confusion,” Grisham wrote, and the staff had to deal with the fallout.
Grisham says in the book that she told Donald Trump “many times” that if he lost reelection in 2020 it “would be because of Jared.”
It “was my fervent opinion that his arrogance and presumption had grown over the years, and he threw his power about with absolutely no shame,” she wrote. And when things turned out badly, he would always blame others, added Grisham, who called Kushner “Rasputin in a slim-fitting suit.”
Kushner, who was slammed by medical experts a year ago for comparing COVID-19 to the common flu, didn’t end his involvement in the nation’s coronavirus response with the speech. He met with his own team developing some kind of COVID plans even though Pence was supposed to be in charge.
The late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s grandson Max Kennedy volunteered to work on Kushner’s COVID-19 task force and ended up sending a complaint to Congress about what he had witnessed.
Kennedy detailed a poorly managed operation to procure desperately needed medical supplies run by an inexperienced crew of volunteers. There appeared to be no vision, no strategy and no real leadership, he said. He described the operation as a “family office meets organized crime, melded with ’Lord of the Flies.’”
Kushner reportedly predicted last year that New York would “suffer” with COVID, coldly adding, “That’s their problem.” He said the “free market” would solve the problem and that fighting a pandemic is “not the role of government.”
More than 400,000 Americans died of COVID during the Trump administration. As of Friday, the death toll had reached nearly 700,000.