President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top aide and key adviser on the federal government’s response to the new coronavirus pandemic, made a rare TV appearance on Thursday to speak with reporters.
In contrast to other top members of the administration, including his wife, Kushner eschews the spotlight — avoiding most interviews and skipping social media.
But he broke his characteristic silence on Thursday to laud the work of the coronavirus task force in, according to him, working to secure crucial supplies for the health care workers treating the thousands of virus patients around the country.
The government’s coronavirus response to date has been heavily scrutinized. The president’s own rhetoric about the virus became sharply more serious in recent weeks after he originally downplayed it compared to the flu and said his opponents were trying to politicize it as a “hoax.”
Explaining his changing approach, Trump said Tuesday that he was “not about bad news” and was a “cheerleader” who had tried to be positive.
Other issues, including a lagging rollout of national coronavirus testing, have now been largely overcome, the government insists.
Speaking Thursday, Kushner said he understood the worry that medical professionals felt in facing a rising tide of ill patients without either necessary protective equipment — to keep themselves safe while providing care — or needed supplies like ventilators to treat the respiratory illness.
“We recognize the challenge that America faces right now,” Kushner said. “We know what a lot of the people on the front lines are facing, the fear they have that they won’t have the supplies they need, and our goal is to work as hard as we can to make sure that we don’t let them down.”
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images Jared Kushner speaking at Thursday’s coronavirus media briefing at the White House
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Jared Kushner at Thursday’s coronavirus media briefing at the White House
Few aides have lasted as long or have had as much responsibility in the Trump administration as Kushner.
Since 2017, Kushner’s portfolio has included peace in the Middle East, government innovation and other issues and he has struck a pose about governing that largely aligns with Trump’s outsider perspective: that the White House must encourage unusual — even uncomfortable — partnerships between public agencies and private companies, with a focus on data and insights, in order to get things done
Critics have said this approach can be careless, trespassing transparency and ethics concerns, and Kushner’s track record is mixed.
The White House’s vaunted plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for example, was almost immediately dismissed by everyone but Israel after its release in January.
Elsewhere during Thursday’s briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin touted the new funds to support struggling businesses — through government loans that will be forgiven if payroll is maintained — and the individual cash to Americans, mostly in the form of $1,200 payments that Mnuchin said would begin in two weeks via direct deposit.