Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, can be heard in newly released audio clips bragging about President Donald Trump’s anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic as the illness ravaged parts of the country in mid-April.
Claiming that the United States was entering “the comeback phase” of the crisis, Kushner said approvingly that Trump had taken over from the doctors who know how to slow the spread of viruses.
His comments were part of a recorded interview with journalist Bob Woodward on April 18, three days after the country recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths to date. A copy of the recording was obtained by CNN.
“There were three phases. There’s the panic phase, the pain phase and then the comeback phase. I do believe that last night symbolized kind of the beginning of the comeback phase,” Kushner said in one clip. He appeared to be referencing Trump’s remarks on reopening guidelines that the White House coronavirus task force created for the nation’s governors while the country was averaging 30,000 new cases per day.
Kushner continued to minimize the deepening crisis: “That doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of pain and there won’t be pain for a while, but that basically was, we’ve now put out rules to get back to work. Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of ― we have, like, a negotiated settlement.”
Trump has faced searing criticism for sidelining medical professionals throughout the pandemic, and experts fear COVID-19 cases will worsen further during the winter.
According to Kushner, a turning point for the president came when he announced the reopening guidelines.
“The last thing was kind of doing the guidelines, which was interesting. And that in my mind was almost like ― you know, it was almost like Trump getting the country back from the doctors. Right? In the sense that what he now did was, you know, he’s going to own the open-up,” Kushner said.
To Kushner, Trump’s handling of the virus was smart political angling because “the opening is going to be very popular.” The federal government, however, was failing to coordinate testing strategies with the states that would allow for a safe reopening.
″[T]hat’s the way the federalist system works,” Kushner said.
At the time, the virus was spreading rapidly in New York and New Jersey, and had yet to wreak havoc across the Sun Belt and Upper Midwest ― where it is currently spreading at alarming rates. Hospitals in New York City were beginning to see a downturn in new COVID-19 patients, but the day Kushner spoke to Woodward, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned of the danger of reopening too quickly, saying, “You’re going to be back to where we were.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows seemingly admitting defeat in the face of the crisis on Sunday, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the federal government was “not going to control the pandemic.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.