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Calling Trump: When connections help steer virus supplies
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WASHINGTON — It was early on a Friday when Jared Kushner said he received a call from his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. Trump was hearing from friends in New York that the city's public hospital system was running low on critical supplies to fight the new coronavirus — something city officials, nurses and doctors had been saying for weeks.
Kushner, who has taken a lead role in the federal government's response, called Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs the city's hospital system, to ask what was most needed.
And not long after, Trump was on the phone with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be sending a month's worth of N-95 masks to the city's front-line workers.
“The president’s been very, very hands-on in this," Kushner told reporters. “He’s really instructed us to leave no stone unturned.”
It was a happy ending to one chapter of a dreadful story: Critical supplies went to a place with critical needs.
But the president's intervention underscored what watchdogs say is a troubling pattern when it comes to how the Trump administration is doling out lifesaving resources. Despite building a data-driven triage system in which FEMA allots supplies based on local needs, those who are politically connected and have the president’s ear have, at times, been able to bypass that process and move to the front of the line.