President Donald Trump was furious at top advisers over a decision to let 14 Americans who tested positive for coronavirus to return to the United States from Japan, after he was assured they’d stay in quarantine overseas, The Washington Post reported.
Trump and the administration’s coronavirus task force were told last Saturday that Americans who’d been in quarantine for weeks aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship would be brought home on two chartered planes — but that patients who had symptoms or the infection itself would stay in Japan.
Trump was briefed on the decision and agreed that healthy passengers should not be on the plane with sick ones, The Post reported, citing unnamed administration officials.
But the State Department and a top U.S. health official ultimately decided to bring back the 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus on the planes and place them in isolation — without informing Trump first.
Trump learned of the decision after the fact and was angry he wasn’t consulted first, complaining that the decision could damage his administration’s handling of the response, The Post reported.
Trump has since had several calls with top White House officials to say he should have been told, that it should have been his decision and that he did not agree with the decision that was made.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is running the president’s coronavirus task force, led a call Wednesday and told members the president was upset over the decision, The Post reported. One senior White House official told The Post not informing Trump of the decision ahead of time was a “big operational mistake.”
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also was on the call and said the president had to know of such proposed moves in advance going forward.
According to The Post, Trump is concerned any big outbreak in the United States could hurt his 2020 presidential reelection bid. He’s also been unwilling to criticize China’s response to the outbreak — and has worried any drastic action by his administration could further spook the markets and hurt the economy.
Administration officials are also worried they might not be able to quarantine large numbers of people in the United States if a pandemic breaks out. There have been at least 10 meetings on quarantines in the past two weeks, administration officials told The Post.