On March 1, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro warns the president that COVID-19 is serious and that he needs to act “in Trump Time.” Navarro urges him to begin directing resources for drug supplies and medical equipment, but Trump doesn’t listen.
Over the next six weeks, Navarro takes matters into his own hands.
He directs a $765 million loan to Eastman Kodak for the production of generic drugs. The company has never manufactured drugs before and needs a waiver from the Food and Drug Administration before they can even attempt drug manufacturing.
He arranges a $353 million contract for pharmaceutical ingredients to a company called Phlow, which has never manufactured drugs and didn’t exist until two months ago.
Finally, he pushes forward a $96 million contract for respirators and air filters to AirBoss Defense Group. Navarro personally helped draft AirBoss’s proposal, a favor to Trump ally Gen. Jack Keane who is on the AirBoss payroll.
Navarro is just an adviser and can’t approve the contracts himself, so he places intense pressure on the agencies that can.
“My head is going to explode if this contract does not immediately get approved. This is a travesty,” Navarro wrote on March 20, 2020, to Phlow CEO Eric Edwards, then-BARDA Director Rick Bright and then-Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec.
A Phlow consultant subsequently praised that email when strategizing with company leaders on a follow-up, sharing a draft email that he said would allow Bright “to appear in control” of contracting decisions while using the White House to accelerate the deal.
“Navarro’s ‘if your contracting people mess this up, you’re fired’ email to Rick and Kadlec several weeks ago was a big deal. CC’ing Navarro cranks up the pressure,” Phlow consultant Andrew Stiles wrote on April 4, 2020.The Washington Post
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