Why are they protesting outside the White House?
As the national coronavirus lockdowns were commencing last month, the Trump administration announced it would release 4,000 ventilators from the federal stockpile.
By the last week of March, however, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had delivered only 400.
Thousands of ventilators remain in the stockpile. Trump claimed “we are holding it back for flexibility.”
Rear Admiral John Polowczyk stated in a press conference, “I’m not here to disrupt a supply chain.”
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, proclaimed:
“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
Then wording on the Health and Human Services (HHS) website was revised to reflect his statement.
“Our stockpile,” Kushner said.
Or anyone else’s.
After Massachusetts purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) from wholesale retailer BJ’s the federal government subsequently seized, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) resorted to conspiring with his state’s Chinese ambassador and New England Patriots football team owner Robert Kraft to purchase more PPE in China and have it flown to Massachusetts.
This is absolutely nuts: the Feds keeps seizing PPE ordered by MA. In desperation the MA Gov creates a backchannel to Chinese ambassador to the UN and has the New England Patriots send a jet to pick the PPE up and finally get it to MA hospitals. https://t.co/YPCHZj3djf
— Prasad Jallepalli (@jallepap) April 3, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had to also go behind the government’s back and order millions of masks and gloves from China “because we’ve heard reports of Trump trying to take PPE in China and when it gets to the United States.”
“Part of the thing is, I know the government is monitoring large orders of equipment, but they had no idea where that was going. They’re on a watch for anybody ordering en masse. It’s not like we put in orders every week. We’ve been waiting on that order for two-and-a-half, three weeks.”
“Either be in or out. [Either let] us know what we’re going to get and when we’re going to get them or stay out and let us buy them.”
To WLRN, he said:
“We were going to meet the plane and actually take them. That’s like gold, you know. But we got the word from the company that they had been taken from the federal government I say it was hijacked, because that’s what happened.”
In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, chief physician executive at Baystate Health in Massachusetts, Dr. Andrew Artenstein, records how the FBI questioned him after his hospital staff worked “around the clock” to secure a PPE shipment.
In that letter, he details:
“Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies wasn’t easy. Two semi-trailer trucks, cleverly marked as food-service vehicles, met us at the warehouse. When fully loaded, the trucks would take two distinct routes back to Massachusetts to minimize the chances that their contents would be detained or redirected. Before we could send the funds by wire transfer, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived, showed their badges, and started questioning me. No, this shipment was not headed for resale or the black market. The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of PPE was bound for hospitals. After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks. But I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure.”
American states are not the only victims of this government-sanctioned piracy.
FEMA has also commandeered PPE from France and Germany.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), along with a group of other House Democrats, called on FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor to provide any documents pertaining to the seizures, stating:
“Officials and health care providers in California, Florida, Washington, Illinois, Oregon, Alaska and Texas have described similar experiences. FEMA must explain their actions.”
I'm deeply concerned about reports that @fema seized desperately needed PPE, COVID-19 tests and other medical supplies from states and hospitals. At a time when states like NY most need this equipment, FEMA must explain their actions.
Read our letter to FEMA demanding answers. pic.twitter.com/M5rru4Z2ZO
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 16, 2020
FEMA, of course, denies any shenanigans,.
A spokesperson explained the agency “has developed a system for identifying needed supplies from vendors and distributing them equitably.”
What that “system” entails, though, is unknown since the agency isn’t forthright about what it’s taking, its justification, or where it’s sending seized material.
FEMA’s defense is that it is only preventing medical supplies from being shipped abroad.
But, as was reported in Talking Points Memo:
“Something doesn’t fit here. These seizures and reroutings have become commonplace around the country in recent weeks. Given FEMA’s role in the COVID-19 CRISIS response efforts it’s logical to conclude they’re authorizing these actions. In some cases it has been murky just what federal agency is involved. But in other news reports FEMA has publicly discussed its role. If it’s really true that FEMA isn’t doing this, who is? And is it really possible this is happening on a widespread basis around the country and FEMA doesn’t know anything this?”
Remember what Jared Kushner said:
“It’s supposed to be our stockpile.
House Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called on Peter Gaynor to explain “the role of Jared Kushner in managing FEMA’s operational efforts to obtain and distribute” supplies, explaining:
“It appears that Mr. Kushner is unclear about basic facts regarding the purpose of the Strategic National Stockpile. We are particularly troubled that Mr. Kushner’s work may even involve ‘directing FEMA and HHS officials to prioritize specific requests from people who are able to get Kushner on the phone.'”
Weeks ago, Donald Trump told governors “We’re not a shipping clerk.”
In other words, the Trump administration is not interested in protecting the lives of average Americans.
It only intends to coddle corporations and the wealthy responsible for the almighty “supply chain.”
As Trump blamed the Obama administration, cases of COVID-19 were mounting.
Even while aware the pandemic was going to get worse after its first American case on Jan. 19, Trump sent 17.8 tons of PPE to China.
Now states are scrambling for that equipment and left to compete against each other for it.
The federal government–the very entity that exists to “Establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty“–is rotting from the head down like a fish.
We are on our own.