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Trump’s coronavirus response hinged on stock market desires: report



  • While grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, President Donald Trump has been wary of taking actions that could trigger economic shockwaves, a Financial Times investigation found.
  • “Testing too many people or ordering too many ventilators” could “spook” the stock market, said Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner.
  • A source told the Times the president paid closer attention to Kushner’s advice than “what the scientists were saying” because “he thinks they always exaggerate.”
  • Trump has been distraught because “the stock market was firing on all cylinders” in March, another source said, but in just eight weeks looks like it’s been hit by “a meteor or a terrorist attack.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump’s public attitude towards the coronavirus has swung between downplaying its severity, patting himself on the back for a job well done, and pushing for the economy to reopen.

Sometimes, he has admitted that the pandemic could result in 100,000 American lives lost

More recently, Trump has been accused of pressurizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change how it counts COVID-19 fatalities so it generates a lower death toll.  

The president’s recalcitrant attitude toward a strong nationwide response was caused by a fear that such moves would have a ripple effect that could send the stock market into a tizzy, according to the Financial Times.

According to an unnamed official described by the Times as being in close communication with Trump, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House advisor, has argued for less testing.

“Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it,” the source told the Times. “That advice worked far more powerfully on [Trump] than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.”

On May 7, Trump said that too much testing paints the US in an unfavorable light.

“So the media likes to say we have the most cases, but we do, by far, the most testing. If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases. So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad,” he said.

Others in Trump’s inner circle described to the Times how difficult it is to advise the capricious president, with one anonymous administration official likening it to “bringing fruits to the volcano. You’re trying to appease a great force that’s impervious to reason.”

trump coronavirus

President Donald Trump speaks during a tree planting ceremony in recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day on the South Lawn of the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Anthony Scaramucci, who was briefly the White House Director of Communications, said that Trump values fealty above all else.

“The way to keep your job is to out-loyal everyone else, which means you have to tolerate quackery,” he told the Times. “You have to flatter him in public and flatter him in private. Above all, you must never make him feel ignorant.”

As of Thursday, the US has more than 1.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 85,194 deaths — the worst outbreak on Earth. And a historic 36 million-plus jobs have been lost in the last eight weeks, a fact that has been most troubling to this businessman-turned-president.

In March, the White House administration was jubilant because “the economy was just steaming along, the stock market was firing on all cylinders and that jobs report was fantastic,” Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign adviser, told the Times. “It was almost too perfect. Nobody expected this virus.”

Fast forward two months, and the US economy has been ravaged. “It hit us like a meteor or a terrorist attack,” Moore said.

Charlie Black, a Republican consultant, told the Times that Trump has “no choice” but to focus on the economy — it’s the lynchpin of his reelection efforts.

“It is the economy or nothing,” Black said. “He can’t exactly run on his personality.”

To that, former chief strategist Steve Bannon added: “Trump’s campaign will be about China, China, China. And hopefully, the fact that he rebooted the economy.”

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