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Politics Lawmakers demand answers on Kushner supply chain influence

19:15  08 april  2020
19:15  08 april  2020 Source:   nbcnews.com

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Two House committee leaders are demanding answers from the Trump administration about Jared Kushner's role in directing and redirecting the flow of life-saving medical equipment among private companies, various levels of government and hospitals in need.

a man in a suit standing in front of a crowd: Jared Kushner at a White House coronavirus briefing © Win McNamee Jared Kushner at a White House coronavirus briefing

On Tuesday, the same day the Kushner-backed supply chain task force abandoned its "war room" at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters following the revelation that a "partner" of the agency who worked in the area tested positive for coronavirus, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sent a letter to FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor giving an April 15 due date to provide files related to the efforts of the senior adviser and son-in-law to the president.

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Thompson and Maloney, the chairs of the Homeland Security Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee, respectively, are seeking "all communications between any FEMA employee and Jared Kushner regarding the acquisition, distribution of, or federally directed sale of any form of PPE or of medical supplies and equipment to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19," according to the letter.

They're also requesting documentation of contacts between FEMA employees and private sector firms who are working on the coronavirus response on a voluntary basis, information on flights FEMA has arranged for private companies to bring medical equipment into the U.S. for sale, and an explanation of practices and protocols for how the agency determines and tracks needs for PPE and other items.

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Lawmakers are taking a keen interest in Kushner's involvement in "Project Airbridge," a new program under which the federal government lines up and pays for flights to bring medical equipment into the U.S. from overseas for private companies. The federal government gets to determine where 50 percent of the goods are distributed — potentially redirecting shipments bound for one area of need in favor of another — but the company still gets paid for supplying them.

The committees are seeking documents on "all flights FEMA has scheduled through Project Airbridge, including the destinations of all such flights, and the manifests detailing the quantities and types of PPE and essential medical supplies and equipment carried to the U.S. on these flights," Thompson and Maloney wrote.

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  Key Trump task force must work at home after positive COVID-19 test The positive test for coronavirus, announced in an email to Federal Emergency Management Agency staff Monday night, will empty the supply chain war room."Until further notice, all personnel in the Supply Chain Resilience task force" on a particular floor of one of FEMA's buildings "and the FEMA Conference Center are required to telework," according to an email obtained by NBC News and confirmed by a FEMA official. The message was sent to FEMA headquarters staff at 11:17 p.m. ET Monday.

"We are troubled by reports that Mr. Kushner's actions — and those of outside advisers he has assembled and tasked — may be 'circumventing protocols that ensure all states' requests are handled appropriately,'" they wrote. "We are particularly troubled that Mr. Kushner's work may even involve 'directing FEMA and HHS officials to prioritize specific requests from people who are able to get Kushner on the phone.'"

Now, all the work for the supply chain task force, which is technically under the command of Admiral John Polowczyk as one of the sub-units of Vice President Mike Pence's coronavirus task force, is being done on the phone. Late Monday night, FEMA instructed that task force to work remotely "until further notice."

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