tv Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta Nightmare Scenario CSPAN July 25, 2021 8:56pm-10:00pm EDT
is truly damning, infuriating and nightmarish. in conversation with yasmeen and gaming damon will be opposed calling of theirs, ashley who covers the white house. ashley joined the post four years ago after 11 years at the "new york times" and reporting on russian interference in the 2016 election was part of the package of post stories that won the pulitzer for national
reporting in 2018. ashley frequently appears on nbc news and msnbc as a contributor. so yasmeen, damien and ashley, take it away. >> hi. thank you, guys for doing this. damien and yasmeen everyone for tuning in. i assume you all that pre-ordered the book from politics and prose but here it is. it's fantastic, thank you. your book is so great and i'll ask my question you guys can find out for who answers. your book is so great a part of a just wants to use this our job you recount all the amazing anecdotes in your book. i'm not going to do that but there is one i would you about that is got a lot of attention already basically you report president trump at one point suggested sending inspected cruiseship passengers to guantánamo bay -- infected. tells about that.
>> this is something that really jumped out at us, for a couple of reasons. one, back in february 2020 there was a lot of focus first on that diamond princess christian those off the coast of japan, and i think there were 500 or 600 passengers on the ship, a lot of americans on the ship, elderly americans and so there was this big fight over what to do and how to get them home. at the time 360,000 people and cruise ships around the world so there's a lot of people and crew ships, the virus moves very quickly. it was consul in the headlines, the white house situation room, they're constantly talking about this and the president was getting really nervous about the idea of sending these people back to the united states if they were infected. at one point using meeting in a situation room and said we are not bringing them the back. i don't want them back. he was really focus on the numbers at the bottom of the television screen that said the stock market is this in the number of people who are sick is
14 for 20 something. he did not want that number nevg up because he thought that's what people were looking everyday. he wanted to put them somewhere. he always thinks outside the box obviously so they came up with this idea of sending the two guantánamo bay. first they couldn't believe he said but they did what the often did, like over the years visit okay, we will look into and get back to you. kind of hoping he would forget about it and he would never bring it up again. sure enough a few days later in the oval office he asks what's the status of the gitmo move? that's when the a's got to give in to we cannot let this happen. this would be a public relations nightmare. we can't send 80-year-olds who are sick to this island with a cannot get the best medical care. obviously it was a crazy anecdote and a a crazy story t for yasmeen and i think it was a wake-up call that anything that we hear we should run down.
anything about how unbelievable it seemed could have been under consideration and could be something that they might have done. it was that anecdote that helped propel a lot of the reporting. we need to look into everything. we need to believe anything is possible with this group because the president comes up with all kinds of things, , when he heard it on fox news or from a friend in new york, like use having all kinds of ideas whispered in his years and a lot of them made it 30 far down the track. >> stepping back a little bit, i know when reporters write books in general it often comes out of your beat or an article you have written. there's nothing new about parachuting in to an environment and immersing yourself in that but i'm curious what it was like covering a deadly pandemic while you two were living it not just as reporters but as citizens and human beings.
you have to make kids why madge and have some sort nightmarish remote situation. yasmeen your family in the area. you have family close. i'm sure you try to mesa and make sure a was safe. what was it like to write about that something you yourself were reporting on? >> that's a great question. it took a big emotional toll because it was so much a part of our day today. we couldn't get together a lot of the time, just brainstorming work on things in person. we had to do a lot of our interviews over the phone or on zoom. you can only come you know, , yu can only build a relationship with sources although easier if you're meeting in person and you can build trust that way. we were cold calling a lot of people are not able to make them a lot of times not able to see their faces. and, of course, the world's second home desha stayed home skid. for much of the last you we were
really, really scared for our families, our parents and friends living in parts of the country that were getting hit really hard. we were covering this and we were hearing these stories, and about a bunch of them with you about how no one knows who's in charge and the number of passports and just off the rail things are so much of the time, and it's stressful. it's much more stressful than when we're covering other aspects that were chaotic but didn't affect is so directly because you're watching the response, seeing things clearly are not going well, the case count is going up. the winter was really hard because you have three, 4000 people a day dying. they're really not even focused on the pandemic at the point and a think it just, it hit home for us how important it was to document what happened and why it happened because we didn't, damian lost his great aunt to corona park in middle of all the service directly impacting us in
that way, too, but obviously there were people who suffered a lot more than we did. it was hard for us so i think that hit home, how important it was to find the unvarnished truth to get people to talk to maybe were not willing to in real time, especially after the election, so we can better understand what happened. >> i would just add to that, do you remember the first time we walked into a grocery store and everyone was wearing a mask? or like the run on toilet paper? there was a moment in the middle, i guess it was in the spring when my daughter was at the dentist and we get a call from the next day from the den sankar hygienist had coronavirus, and the sheer panic of waiting for the test results. we were living this and i think that made us come this wasn't an abstract thing. that made us i think even more invested in getting to the bottom of what was happening. this affected everyone in the
country. it just changed everything. there's only people lost their jobs come so many businesses shut down and i think it made this feels so real. the fact without liquid something to contribute to investigate and to try to unearth, i think that made it more personal for us. >> before i ask the next question i would put in the chat my son was garbled. i took off my headphones so hopefully that helps but if not let me know. assuming you can hear me, looks like it worked. you guys write you spoke with more than 180 people for this book and i'm curious how their stories change over the course of the reporting period with a more forthcoming after the election, after the inauguration, or as often indicates in journalism after they realize that their colleagues were talking to you? >> do you want to start, damian?
>> sure. it was interesting it was kind of a moving target. there were times during the year when they tried to defend their actions more than after the election. there was a fog of war element to a lot of the decisions which at times is understandable. none of us knew what we were dealing with at first. there were times when the phone like they were doing could. obviously especially the scientists, they were learning as they went, unmasks and stuff they had no idea initially if it worked. stories of change in some ways that's understandable but there was definitely a point after election and especially after the inauguration when, for some of them the spin really begin the revisionist history. yasmeen and i were meticulous in our fact checking because so many of the stories contradicted and we really wanted to make sure we gave readers and
accurate presentation of these events because these are events they need to be remembered for decades to come. there's a lot of finger-pointing at the end. there was a lot of, i i did te best i could but that person was a monster kind of stuff. and so i think the knives really cannot especially after january 6th with people felt like the administration was burning to the ground. it made a harder for us to givep going back and reconciling. i know we felt like we ended up in in a really good place. >> that makes sense. when i was reading your book you may at least one very deliberate choice it seems to me which was to begin each chapter with a number of confirmed covid cases and the number of confirmed covid deaths. as a reader it was incredibly powerful because it reminded me of what you're about to lay out in the next chapter, was it just unbelievable stories but bua pretty real-world devastating consequences and to give you guys a sense, the prologue
opened with five-point in the case at 180,000 deaths and by the time i got to the final chapter we were at 9 billion cases and almost 230,000 deaths. so tell me about how you guys decided to make it seem in a small decision but again a quite powerful one. >> when we started writing the book we still didn't know of course the out course was going to break because he started last spring. i think we were wondering if things are going to ease up over the summer, if by the time a book came out this would be a distant memory that people didn't really want to relive anymore, which of course is not what happened. but it was actually, damian deserves credit for that turkey was looking at it both from the case count and economic perspective watching the case count go up and the dow jones kind of go up and crash down because the meetings in anecdotes we got seemed abstract
or you don't really understand the importance. and i think it's much more powerful if you're seeing some petty fight or rivalry play out, these counts were several nine cases and more than -- people are still at the throat because of some rivalry they have. that drives home the point a bit more, that lies are on the line and the in decisions, the delay in getting things done because people couldn't agree to get on the same page had real consequences. like you said i think we found it really alarming when we looked over the course of the book. we were covering it in real time so we were watching with horror the case count pick up and the death count take up. it just drives home important what is and isn't happening at that point in time. >> i remember writing some of these covid stories especially with you than one and one thing we talked about at the time was we would write a a week indusy
but maybe i'll the draft friday but it will not run into sand and we would leave a blank space from the americans were dead because we knew we were filed the story on 12 posted online on sunday it could go up by a couple thousand. i almost could make sense of it but we're leaving the space in her story from a people were going to die in 48 hours. another big take away i had from your book was there was this cascade that mistakes. as you guys put a nightmare scenario at almost every level where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. and now having, having the benefit of hindsight and in-depth reporting on curious if you guys could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the administration's handling of the pandemic, what would it be? what do you think would make the biggest difference? >> i think there was a window from mid-march to the end of
march when the country did rally together. quite frankly at the end of march the president approval rating was as high as i think it's ever been. yet announced the europe travel ban banter he was doing the daily briefings. he was kind of doing this popular trump thing that think a lot of people like. he was talking through stuff, he was in charge. berkson sachi were at the peak of the power at the time, and so in that window the country kind of rally together. it was kind of almost a post 9/11 situation where people were all kind of in it as the country. then the president became obsessed with the idea of reopening. i think a lot of his external economic advisers had convinced him this would crush you in the election. obviously the layouts were devastating, and it was an economic mess. so he rushed to reopen and it
became this kind of everybody for himself kind of set up your remember there was the march on the michigan capital, people started getting angry. the warlike weapons in government buildings and you could see, you could feel the country starting to pull apart. obviously after george floyd the country just exploded. there was that period when opportunities were lost to kind of keep the country together. this is hard. this is a crazy virus that has no precedent and it was spreading from asymptomatic people. there was no easy way to do this but i think there was an opportunity was lost in that period and then have the mike pence op-ed come second wave, denial really set and i think at the end of may and june. things really unraveled from there. >> kind of follow up on that, there were several inflection points during the year when the administration almost made one decision but the ended up doing something else.
there was mask debate in march, there was the present getting sick with coronavirus himself. there was this final confrontation, i think it was original reporting tween dr. birx and vice president pence. just walk us through some of those inflection points. >> so i think you have the first two months, january and february, where there certain to forget what they're dealing with. that was really the best opportunity, it was never going to be contained because the nature of the virus. the nightmare scenario actually came from dr. fauci describing what kind of virus this was. it was a nightmare scenario because they could spread a symptomatically. it was respiratory and other such a wide range of infection people which made harder to treat and to know what to do. like you had said earlier it was a nightmare in figure and weight. january february february with the best opportunities to get lots of testing phase can make sure there's adequate contact
tracing. there was always going to spread unfortunate people always going to die in a who was in charge, but i think there are countries that were models like south korea and of the country the ramped up testing very quickly with the never had devastating outbreaks in the way we did. that was a huge missed opportunity and the course we look into the whole mess with the cd test and why they didn't go to other companies. that was a big inflection point. like you said there was the mask debate in march weather was a proposal and already the companies manufacturing masks to send every american household, which gets yanked off the task force agenda because people are ridiculing the event health secretary alex azar was modeling the mask thing they look like underwear on your face or a training bra, as a vice president chief of staff yanks it off the gin and says we are not doing this. then you've got the summer where cases start picking back up but that was a pretty good opportunity -- >> hold on bravely. i want to stop it because as a
question related to that finance u.s. who in your view is a primary decision-maker to not send the masks to the public? >> damian come to him if you disagree, i think mark short was probably the primary decision-maker because he is one who went to the vice president said this is a ready, let's take it off the agenda. they were also anger because they felt like hhs emergency preparedness chief would come up with the idea was freelancing and had not gotten approval from the white house for how much is going to cost. >> sorry, continue. you're moving on to the summer i think. >> there was a point in august where we are back that like 20 or 30,000 cases a day. that was another opportunity to try to crush it before it picked back up in the fall. of course that was totally wasted because they were starting to focus on the campaign begin. of course the president's illness you think you'll be a turning point and it's not. that final confrontation with dr. birx where she begged the
vice president to tell people to wear masks or the third devastating wave is -- she figures there's nothing to lose and, of course, that doesn't happen either. we were pretty stunned by the number of opportunities the were to turn things around. >> i want to stick with the president illness. there was this brief hope, i remember reporting it in real-time as well inside the white house inside his orbit he might emerge as a changed man. more empathetic, more series, somewhat better equipped to handle this pandemic. that never happened. but in your reporting did you find a moment where it could have? was a some who almost got through to him? was her away he seemed like he could've taken an alternate path? also like you think he emerged the same as he ever was? >> that's a great question.
so our reporting found that obviously he was very sick at the white house, and he does that long walk across the south lawn which for me is like the moon walk. i'll never forget it. it was just an amazing moment. and then in walter reed you had dance kavita, jared kushner and mark meadows although with them and that presidential suite with masks and gloves and everything. he was quite sick. they put them back into oxygen there. he was given like a heavy cocktail of drugs, including steroids that it seemed like really kind of jacked him up and made them feel like superman. those steroids saved his life but at the same time they made him think that he had with it, you know? he almost didn't have a chance to reflect. when there were he did that kind of weird drive around with the secret service? and so he liked just couldn't
sit still. and so fauci and breakthrough when close contact with his doctors. they were checking on his condition to make sure he got the care he needed -- and redfield. they didn't know what would happen. when redfield was every step the president took walking back up the south portico on the monday was discharged, redfield was praying every step he was going to acknowledge this a real, acknowledge this a grill, we're going to change course. as soon as he took off that mask redfield knew it was over. the president was a month from the election, he was obsessed with not losing, and he just said immediately, , like don't e afraid come we can't be afraid, we can beat this and that's when everyone knew it was over. >> that makes sense. >> and then you also described the moment in mid april when trump tweeted out liberate, liberate michigan to minnesota,
virginia. dr. fauci tells you it was a quote-unquote defining moment for them. but every little bit of what he said which is it was a smack in the face waking me up. how did it waking up? more than at that how do youk a change dr. fauci behavior from how is going to handle evident he was dealing with going forward? >> our understanding was he saw the as kind of a point of no return, that the doctors did have some influence with trump. quite a bit of influence for a few weeks. they convinced him to extend the shutdown for another 30 days. people were rallying and tried to do the right thing. he always had this itch to reopen even when you would make a decision he would undercut and keeps a record to reopen, going to reopen, this is a work more. but when he wrote the liberate tweet by saying fauci and the doctors were stunned because it was the most overweight to fighting the country. they were like we cannot come back from that. then of course like damian was
talking about earlier, see people in michigan storming the capital and it kind of broke the country in two. it was everything. it was whether you were a mask or not, whether how you searcy took the virus, there was like no middle ground anymore. it was either you are all income and your mask and socially distance, stated tonka or you were over it and you believed trump that this would in and was just time to go back to normal. i think you just thought you cannot unite the country after that. it's impossible to come back from that. what fauci also said was he didn't fully appreciate how much trump supporters desha i don't think people appreciate that. when he said that he knew a lot of people would take that to heart and that it just wasn't ready something you could come back from. the president had made up his mind about what direction he was going to move in. of course you see in the next few months allergy becomes much more outspoken, sort more blunt
and contradicting what trump and his aides are saying. it's probably because he thinks this assessment he's going to talk to whoever is going to listen to him. >> speaking of dr. fauci, he and dr. birx came -- became two of those controversial character controversial character in the book. profiles in both of them and doesn't so much about dr. birx when she was young, when she was competing in science fairs. i'm curious you agree that's an accurate reading that they were the most complex characters in the soul disaster? being such complex figures who were grappling with such different inputs and you guys can talk more about this but drn searching the command is of utmost importance to her. how did that equipped them or maybe complicate again how they responded to the virus? >> we spent so much time talking about dr. birx between the two of us.
we really wanted to try to figure out. it's funny we talked people who have known her for 40 years, and they still don't completely understand it. she's an incredibly complicated person. i feel she's a very private person. she does, she doesn't really flinched when the president said, she was sitting beside him when he said we need to reopen by eastern she didn't flinch. she was sitting by when he said the whole bleach thing and she didn't flinch. but i know, we know that she was burning inside, at times anger, at times discussed. she could see her reputation dissolving before her eyes. she knew she could see the mistakes happen real-time. she did not challenge the president of public and she felt like ship more influence on the inside. she knew she could be fired at any second. so whereas fauci was a more indestructible, politically she
could be fired. we felt like she didn't kind of tactically have a brilliant move in late march when she publicly praised the president, and then right at the 15 15 day to sle spread clock was winding down she with tony fauci marched into a meeting on saturday night and the yellow oval room which i've never even heard of before but since the residents of white house upstairs, and the president was completely on the ropes come one of his best friends was in a coma with coronavirus. the president watches tv all the time and can see the hospital in queens, people laying in gurneys in the hallways. he knew the was bad because it was all over new york. and she brilliantly said, mr. president, that's going to be every hospital and the united states if you reopen. that was a genius thing to say to him. he said okay, okay, we will extend it for 30 days.
in that moment she kind of played her role perfectly but that only lasted a moment and then as soon as the aides got away from him he was preaching to reopen again. then we saw the kind of slow reputational destruction of dr. birx, which ended with scott atlas in the picture in late july and august. she was treated much different than tony fauci. he was bobble heads and -- >> on 14th street. >> exactly. signs in people's yards and nancy pelosi, the house speaker am after deborah birx, just incredible the way she was treated differently. we tried to portray her as a three-dimensional person who was republican and he needs to be understood better. her role in this because we felt something that was quite historic. >> to continue with the doctors one more minute. you describe a very vivid moment
where fauci sits down with his wife i believe that the kitchen table but correct me if i'm wrong, and he debates with her or not he should resign. if you like i have covered trump long if you realize just about everyone in his orbit at some point or another has had conversation with a partner or with a friend with themselves. fauci like just about 90% of people in trump world makes the decision to stay. people do that for all sorts of different reasons. dr. birx also had that internal question, makes the decision to stay as well. what do you think or what you understand the reasons to be for staying? also how does this track with again the choice that almost everyone in trump world again for better or worse can justify to themselves why they believe they need to remain in that orbit? >> i thinking about than any of us that most of the time people justify to themselves that they're protecting the worst
from happening. when you're watching for the outside you like what do you mean, protecting the were some happening? all this awful stuff is still happening. but when you learn about an incident like in proposing people go to guantánamo bay and well, , i kept that from happening. one of the things dany and i were so struck when we tried to piece together how things get to the point did it at the end of the year it was people would say come say, they asked for something so crazy and i didn't give them the craziest thing they wanted but he did have to give an inch to get them off my back. of course that gets worse and worse and worse as soon as you open that door. in that moment with dr. fauci one of the things that's important to explain is one thing damian and and i wered about in reporting this book is that we look at the relationship both dr. birx and dr. fauci because they made the cruise and hiv/aids as hiv/aids activists were you help into account and
'80s and 90s when aids was upended and it felt like the government didn't care and wasn't doing enough, and anything those relationships for 30 and 40 years. when covid came around a lot of the aids activist turned their attention to covid activism and they figure we've got an open line. they had an open line to fauci, not so much to dr. birx once she went to the white house, but what happens is one of activists whose very close with fauci, you know, if remember we are covering it at the time the white house put out that list on fauci with this it were concerned about the number of times he's been wrong. came from the official white house indications office. >> that was going to be one of my questions. talk for a minute but the people just how unusual is it for an administration to do it on the record on whether public health officials. >> i mean, i think you're probably better position to answer that.
it was crazy because usually when you do these stories about a relationship between the president and one of his aides deteriorating they put out some generic statement like this person is a trusted partner in water might have disagreements, they're here to protect america at the end of the day. instead they did this list like we're concerned about the number of times he's been wrong, and they kick off a dozen instances. of course sort of selectively taking quotes and the activist called fauci andes, talking to them on a pretty regular basis a couple times a week and he says what are you doing? why are you still there? what difference are you making anymore? ..
class they ultimately decide who should stay because otherwise it's not going to be that sort of strong voice pushing back against a lot of business statements from the whitehouse . there might have been people who thought they could do it behind the scenes but there was nobody who was doing what he was publicly and he felt he would lose that megaphone >> it was clear in retrospect crystal-clear but trump was obsessed with fauci. they were kind of polar opposites. one is big, one's little, one has a history as an anti-vaxxer, from new york.
an hour before trump is saying i'm throwing it out into a stadium, he was upset with him and there's a scene in the book in early august when trump calls burks and fauci into the oval office and he says every time birx you open your mouth, i have spent half my day answering questions about tony fauci and fauci is here we are. he was obsessed with this guy wouldn't go away and he couldn't fire . i think they're kind of like we're things that they continue throughout the year was something that drove the president crazy where right before the election the president promised to fire him and he became so obsessed to try to overturn the results he never got aroundto . >> i guess one question is you guys in your book recap this epic fight between the cec and office of management and budget where the office is trying to wait and see the
guidelines and can give a specific instance where they're trying to define what social distancing means for restaurants these in this example the cdc ends up keeping to this political pressure and growing up in the area, i assume most people i've always understood the cdc to be an apolitical agency really is this our from being an apolitical agency so i'm curious how does the cdc come back from something like this? institutionally, with their relationship with the white house and the public can potentially view them in a different way. >> that's such an important point and it's something where continuing to cover all the cdc reveals itself and how they regain the country's trust there's still a lot there. that's going to be an ongoing process. it was so scattered last year to its needs in a way that
stunned everyone especially public health and scientists who rely on the agency. one important thing about the seed that makes his job heart is it's not a regulatory agency. it essentially like advice for the state so they don't have any power to enforce guidelines but people rely on the supposed to have the most up-to-date sites. one of the greatest disasters was because the white house was so involved in the agency's guidance which on his face is not super unusual . when you're dealing with something that with political implications like when reopened schools or businesses of course the white house will weigh in. but the degree to which they wait in and like, the nitty-gritty they weighed in on was so unprecedented. despite what you said about what social distancing meant in restaurants they didn't want restaurants to have to base their tables fix the park because you have lower capacity the economy wouldn't
comeback . people saw this and what happened was the agency couldn't get it started out in time states instead of having something to build on just it was like they had different reopening plans. sometimes you can learn from that life it worked well here but the way it happened was so scattershot and disorganized there was no way to look at what was working and what wasn't, it was such a disaster. it's going to take a long time for the agency to rebuild trust. it's the only medical appointee there is the director. everyone else is pretty much a career scientist or a career with that you saw the agency totally batter drove home so the importance of his . it's not all on the director number of people there you see the white house or corrects what happened.
is this difficult problem to solve. you can see to solve the science but because something like this is not just the science you have to take into account. >> i see questions piling up in that he was so i will ask you more in terms of audience questions if you have a question with it in the chat on yourscreen . but these are questions i love for each of you to take acrack . the event is without virus do you think trump would have won thereelection ? >> i think you would have, yes. >> knows how the rest of the year would have played out in january when he had been in the economy that was doing well, democrats were in disarray . you remember the iowa primary was such a factor. he was looking pretty unstoppable i think. even with coronavirus, it still wasn't as big a market as you might think.
>> that last question before questions, what lessons did you learn writing this book that you would import to a future administration rattling with the pandemic? >> i think yasmine and i talk a lot about lessons learned towards the end of writing the book. obviously there's a lot of things that need to be done in terms of updating stockpiles and research and development but at the end of today, the most important thing is honesty. you know, if the public trust you, they will give you the benefit of the doubt and they will let you kind of let you leave. if the public believes what you're saying. there's just so much conflicting information coming out of the government that people decided they had to believe one side or the other. eventually that just doesn't work when half the country
believes one person and half the country leaves the other is a deadly virus that doesn't have a political party. that was the most dangerous thing so the lesson is just be honest know it's hard distance isn't always popular honesty would have helped a lot especially. >> i completely agree with damien. there's more systemic issues that are maybe for policy experts and epidemiologists to debate and talk about what the country needs but at the political level, i think so much could have been prevented if like damien said , they would just level with the public and then honest. since messages like masks and how to protect your family. it was all over the place that you have to decide you believed would take matters into your own hands and even independent from the other big message is you have to be willing to move past and do things differently outside of
the white house, there were decisions by the agencies that were way too slow because their use to being able to academic science and data they learn the hard way that this is impossible situation like this. you're always going to be outmatched by a virus. >> there are so far 11 questions in a few minutes left. the first one is from rj. how much of the virus response was written by the ideology of political appointees in the trump administration? given that many conservatives were in the small federal government. >> it was a huge issue in initially. the big debate about shutting down the virus from china. there was a real reticence from people like nick mulvaney and others to have the government interfere with trade and commerce. they brought people like
pottinger were scaredy cats that they shouldn't be listened to so there was a reticence initially. it was very about the constitutional right to not have dictate that sort of thing so i think this played a big role. the president wanted to downplay this because he was afraid of the political repercussions of it there were times when he would over correct to say i can tell the stateswhat to do, i'm in charge . this like super federalism idea that a lot of them were with so i think politics drove a lot of the thinking. >> this question is from nancy. did your reporting indicate trump at any concerns for the health of the american people was it's all a political calculation ? >> we obviously don't presume to know everything he was thinking but from what we can gatherour reporting , it was very much a weekly focus and public relations focused.
outburst with the doctors that damien mentioned is a good example of that. it's the way you are talking about the problem, not the fact that the virus even once he gets gets upset because he had this thing with goldstar families the day after the white house event they had had four amy barrett which ended up being a super spreader that and he's telling his staff you're getting people too close to me. of course disregarding the had been a number of instances where hecould have gotten sick . he's not so concerned about other people's 80, is concerned about his own vulnerability i think a lot of what we understand about his presidency in general to. >> this is from fletcher, what was the role of the political side of thewhite house ? it appears every decision was with an eye towards how the base would react. >> i can think of one incident in particular where there was a meeting in the
oval in july. it was with his campaign staff actually they were talking about masks and jason miller another campaign advisor were saying listen, pulling on masks with republican republicans is not bad. 80 percent of republicans are fine with it because they think it will help the republicans to reopen. they were trying to lead him to water and kushner was in his favor, he thought it was a no-brainer once mark meadows i guess said we cannot do this thepresident agreed with meadows . so i think the president thought meadows a good sense of what the base would go for . at the beginning of the book one of the reasons is alex cesar is out-of-favor is because he tried to almost lure trump into banning these cigarettes and flavored baking at the base went bananas over that so it
varies for policy changes in how they would affect the base. a lot of times he ended up bending in whatever direction they wanted. >> this next question from krista. i'll optimistic are you about our ability to combat the coronavirus over the long-term with the dangerous variance that keep on emerging the stalling in us vaccinationrates ? what barriers and in our way? >> that's a great question. i think obviously the country is in a much better place with the vaccines unfortunately the vaccines shown to be highly effective against all the variance so far but i think with the delta variance especially across parts of the country where they have less than 30 or 40 percent of the region vaccinated that's going to be a big problem in health officials areanticipating outbreaks in the fall . then the tricky thing is the coronavirus is a highly efficient virus so the market and spread even if your
vaccinated, people are highly acceptable and is going to keep mutating among on vaccinated people because as we've seen over the last year and a half, new variance coming up and not necessarily more deadly more transmissible than the one circulating before it. as long happens no one and relax and put their guard down. talking about re-implementing mass mandates in the next 12 months as the variance spreads so there's reason to be hopeful but i think the low pace of vaccinations in parts of the country is cause for concern does mean that more transmissible virus argument he. >> this question is from george and i'm going to guess youdon't have an answer . during late spring of 2020 what was president from doing to make sure he maintained his relationship with vladimir putin as the pandemic began to spread?
>> pass. >> that's outside my wheelhouse. >> this next one is from jerry. in your reporting did your research what the obama administration had for their pandemic plan that the trump administration either ignored or recommended or and the shorter version is how much time might have been lost if they didn't act on the existing administration. >> that's a great question. a few days before trump was inaugurated there was a meeting in the eisenhower executive office building with essentially all of obama's candidate all trumps incoming cabinets and it took a tradition that had started a couple administrations before they walked through various catastrophic events to try to prepare the new cabinet for how to respond one was to take an active shooter in acollege campus . one was a tornado or hurricane and the third was a
pandemic, like a flu. and someone shared with me a photograph of everyone in the room . it was like mike flynn, mattis, all these people and what was striking about it was almost all those people were gone when the pandemic came. the first health secretary lasted like a year. i don't even know if they were paying attention during the briefing but so many people who the obama administration and try to help work on either beginning of year 4 when this pandemic happened. so they never really even had the playbook. they never even had the background conversation to know the questions to ask and who to call. >> that reminds me of kelly
and and her office had this amazing photo everyone taking the pledge oninauguration day . and literally as you would go in her officeand you would see each person was whited out . she would like say, no longer in the white house so it was this last man standing of jared and kellyanne. this was from rjagain . the republican party has tried to use doctor fauci as a bogeyman to motivate voters . how much damage does thisdo to the coronavirus response ? >> i think it does a lot of damage . these are presidents the medical advisor. he's still out on tv trying to tell the countrywhat to do but you can see the damage . his approval ratings were high last year and you can see they taken quite get because the conspiracy theories about him and the son of eight towards him was combined last year to a specific part of the
republican party and it's become way more widespread. doctor carlson is calling for him to be criminally investigated, for what i'm not sure at the rally over the weekend, marjorie taylor green they were mocking him. it's gotten really bad. it's kind of unbelievable how much they fixated on him all because he was inconsistent on masks more than a year ago now. and i think it did a lot of damage. he's kind of one of the most prominent scientists in the country. he's not the only one, there are lots of great scientists out there but because so visible people associate him with both governments responses, if your bill arising him that overall brings down a lot of trust in science and scientists generally you can see these scientists on twitter all the time getting harassed if they talk about anything slightly controversial.
>> this question is from jerry. do you guys think anyone from the administration will be held accountable for the 400,000+ avoidable deaths? >> that's a tough question. one of the things that compelled us to do the book was we knew that there had to be some journalistic accountability for what happened last year . after 9/11 there was a 9/11 commission where they went through everything like a big report about what happened and it appears there will be nothing like that after this, one of the biggest catastrophes in american history. we felt it was important to hold people accountable. there were this many deaths, there were a lot of victims, innocent victims who never got to say goodbye to their families died alone in a dead with a nurse squeezing their hand so we felt like we owed it to people to get to the bottom of this and i guess
let history sort out the rest i think that was one of the things that kept us going. >> there are three more questions in the chat that i think we can get to. so from caroline, she's saying she thinks that trump received regeneron while he was in the hospital, that's correct question is digital recording from his doctors and hospitals and staff suggests it was the steroid helped him rather than the regeneron and i know you also added the question i was going to ask to susan. there was this kind of amazing seeing where the commissioner gets this frantic phone call from the white house asking if his agency can sign off on a compassionate use authorization for a monoclonal and antibiotic treatment and it turns out he's calling on behalf of president from . sort of a question about regeneron versus toronto and i'm curious about that back story to get him the anti-money.
>> so he did get regeneron, that's right atthe time it was an experimental drug . it had been authorized for use so that's why they call the fda commissioner asked for this authorization the fda has to provide it within 24 hours for a patient's they don't need the patient's name of the duty of their medical history, all of the drugs there on so they can make sure whatever drug they sign off on is going to react adversely something already on or exacerbate some underlying condition so the white house is calling steve on saying and you do this in a few hours and receive hondas to the career officials they don't know it's trump yet they say we need to go live book on this. the white house basically wants them to cut corners and speeded up and when he realizes it's for trump he's like you want us to cut corners for the president, that'sinsane . but i think one of the people we talked to who was the trumps condition said they were all positive it was the motto monoclonal anti-bodies
that were responsible for his quick turnaround because it's one of these drugs if you get early in the course of the infection can be either effective. we don't know for sure but it seems like the steroids kept him up for that return to the white house. this moment of ripping off the mass essentially gave him a burst of energy but the people we talked to you about his medical condition and information that they thought it was the drug that really turned him around. >> this question is from kavita the question is clearly checks and balances need to be implemented. whose role is that, is that congressional oversight and what sort of restructuring should occur, should the cdc to hold our hhs? >> i think that you know, it probably all needs to be modernized. it's one of the benefits of doing a review is especially structurally so when you have
these agencies, when you have a health secretary like a czar didn't really have the respect of the agencies like the leaders at the fda and the cdc, that just as bad set up or something like this. whether that means you need to organize the agencies differently or make sure these people have a good working relationship i'm not sure it needs to be some kind of your product soul-searching before the next time this happens because it will happen again. i think the sooner they have that conversation the better. >> i think a lot of people would love an oversight report they can get access to all sorts of information but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen right now. >> why won't that happenright now ? >> it's such a dark spot for the republican party. it was obviously not handled well and it was a huge reason why the president lost the election and it was probably
would reflect poorly on a lot of them that more of them didn't speak up on masks or against him of the residents begins that were misleading or nottrue . there are just a lot of people who would come off poorly in a review like that. it was obviously a huge disaster, i think that's what inherently makes it very political . >> that's just an emergency flood alert. final question from nancy and one last question for damien and we will be done. did your reporting indicates that mark meadows, mulvaney and the whole crew, they have any regrets about their role? yasmeen, i have a final question for damien. >> that's a great question. i think we found some instances where mulvaney for the short period of time he was chief of staff said some
things publicly that were weird and not in line with what they were doing privately where he said that the democrats were using virus in trump in late which are reporting the same time, there were already starting to donate a euro travel ban and they wanted trump to take it more seriously and he told the president at one point you think you're running on the economy andyou're not in early march . it's hard to say for people like mark short and mark meadows. their approach to this was in line with their general belief and approach to government that the government shouldn't have a heavy hand in these type of things and it should be up to people to decide. i think they would probably not change their minds on how they felt about mask mandates because they feel like that individual choice and not something that should be imposed by the government and we know throughout the year they bought a lot of this was the overblown and that the doctors were just advising things that were too draconian.
>> i was told that damien as a cheesy story about how he always wanted to write a book since he was a little kid and now that your dream has been realized i was wondering if you could share with us. >> thank you. when i was 12 or 13 i was on an airplane and i was or some reason not sitting with my parents but there was a stranger sitting next to me and i was reading a book and he was talking to me like what's your favorite book and i told him at the time my favorite book was a boy in the girls bathroom. so i walked off the plane and the guy is like i wrote that book . and so as a kid with that access to the internet, it's true. i wrote him a letter five years ago because my son was reading lewisschachter .
so just meeting and author as a kid and we're sitting there like normal people with scuffed jeans and just like us riding back in coach. it always made me think it was possible to write a book to. then you kind of forget and you're midway through your journalism career. then this opportunity came for yasmeen and i what was so fun about this window was the dark experience writing was that we let the book come to us. i have economics background, she has a policy background. it was great. for the crisis that we face. even though i have experienced all those years ago as a kid needing a famous author we were able do the book on our own terms. i think that's what made it almost such a better experience for us at this point. >> i will just say i love the book. i'm so glad you guys did but i'm so glad to have you both
back at the post. >> that's not only cheesy stories damien, that was wonderfully inspiring . great moderating, ashley has always and yasmeen and david, there's so much to tell and why inyour book . you laid a rich factual foundation to help us all determine ultimate accountability and as you your story shows once again, leadership really counts in a crisis and in this pandemic was certainly lacking at the national level so let's all hope that the right lessons learned in this next time many morelives are safe . to everyone watching, thanks for tuning in.
>> drones are used more and more as weapons in combat . next on "after words", retired marine lieutenant colonel wayne phelps looks at the impact of drones in combat and their effect on military units operating them remotely. he's interviewed by author, cornell university professor and former us air force officer sarah friends. "after words"'s weekly interview program with relevant guests was interviewing nonfiction authors about their latest work .