Well, That Didn’t Take Long: Trump Administration’s Graft, Corruption Has Begun in the Coronavirus Era

Well, That Didn’t Take Long: Trump Administration’s Graft, Corruption Has Begun in the Coronavirus Era

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Janet Ybarra
Democrat
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Come on, we all knew that it was just a matter of time, right?

By that, I mean graft and corruption committed by the Trump administration during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 31,000 Americans and sickened more than 600,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Aside from the myriad screwups that it’s made trying to manage this pandemic, now the Trump administration reportedly paid a bankrupt company with zero employees $55 million for N95 masks, which it’s never manufactured.

N95 respirator masks are highly sought-after masks for their ability to protect the wearer from airborne particles which could transmit the virus. At this point, N95 masks are being reserved for front-line providers. But even at that, their numbers are scarce at this point into the pandemic.

So there’s a need to replenish supplies. Into that environment, the Trump administration awarded a $55 million contract to Panthera Worldwide LLC, a company with no expertise in the world of medical equipment, for N95 masks.

Panthera’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last fall, and one of its owners last year said it’d had no employees since May 2018, The Washington Post reported, citing sworn testimony. 

One of Panthera’s executives told The Post that the company was working with military contacts to obtain the masks, and charging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about $5.50 per mask, dramatically more than what the government pays companies with an established background in producing medical supplies such as 3M, which charges about 63 cents per mask.

This deal doesn’t pass the smell test, according to former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, who said that there is something “amiss” about this order. “This is not how the government procures training or any type of supplies,” he said. “You just wouldn’t do business with somebody like that.”

The federal government has established protocols in place for acquisition, even when those purchases have to be on a swift time line. And this isn’t them.

Congress has already had to set up a special committee dedicated to watchdogging the administration’s use of funds made available in the recent $2 trillion economic stimulus package.

Now it appears that lawmakers will also have to investigate whole other examples of what’s either incompetence or someone with a hand in a federal cookie jar, trying to actually profit off of this miserable disease.

Content from The Bipartisan Press. All Rights Reserved.


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