Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell alleged that the Obama administration did not provide the Trump administration with any information about the threat of a possible pandemic during a May 11 Team Trump Facebook Live discussion with Lara Trump.
“They claim pandemics only happen once every 100 years, but what if that is no longer true? We want to be ready, early, for the next one. Because clearly, the Obama administration did not leave any kind of game plan for something like this,” said McConnell.
This claim caught our attention because its definitive nature was directly at odds with the position of some former Obama administration officials, who immediately disputed it and started circulating on social media the link to such a plan.
We reached out to McConnell’s press team to ask for the basis of his statement. McConnell spokesperson David Popp said in an emailed response that “this is a unique crisis and we are all adapting to the public health and economic challenges.” In terms of the pandemic’s economic impact, he said there was “definitely no playbook there” and instead credited McConnell with his work on the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress.
The Pandemic Playbook
Soon after McConnell made his playbook comment, Ronald Klain, the White House Ebola response coordinator from October 2014 to February 2015, tweeted out a link to a document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.”
The document, originally unearthed in March by Politico, is a 69-page National Security Council guidebook developed in 2016 with the goal of assisting leaders “in coordinating a complex U.S. Government response to a high-consequence emerging disease threat anywhere in the world.” It outlined questions to ask, who should be asked to get the answers and what key decisions should be made.
Nicole Lurie, another Obama administration official, confirmed to us the existence of the NSC pandemic playbook and also said similar documents were created for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“To say there was no playbook was ridiculous,” said Lurie, who served as the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS during both terms of the Obama administration.
The playbook lists types of infectious disease threats that could emerge. “Novel coronaviruses” were among pathogens flagged as having potential to cause heightened concern.
Lurie said there were tabletop exercises, which included planning for a pandemic-like situation, during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations. (The Trump administration also conducted an exercise — known as “Crimson Contagion” — in 2019.)
Other Obama-era officials offered similar stories in interviews this week with CNN:
“They were extensively briefed, to the extent that they paid attention to these things during the transition,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, who directed USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
“We absolutely did leave a plan. It was called a playbook,” said Lisa Monaco, former homeland security adviser to President Obama. The goal, she said, was to share the lessons learned during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.
Meanwhile, Peter Loge, who served as a senior adviser within Obama’s Food and Drug Administration, told KHN he remembered a very clear message from the HHS secretary regarding the presidential transition.
“Our job was to set up the Trump political staff for success, and we took that mandate very seriously,” said Loge. He and his colleagues wrote memos to inform the Trump staff about priority issues. “But nobody called me and asked what I was doing in my job,” said Loge.
However, the Trump administration has maintained that the coronavirus sneaked up on the U.S., and Trump himself has even said it was a “very unforeseen thing.”
But, in a May 14 exchange with reporters on the White House lawn, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany acknowledged the existence of the Obama pandemic playbook, even holding it up to show the press. She also dismissed its usefulness.
“The Obama-Biden plan that has been referenced was insufficient. It wasn’t going to work. What our administration did under the leadership of President Trump was do an entire 2018 pandemic preparedness report,” said McEnany. Trump, who was standing nearby, agreed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Obama administration did not leave behind a “game plan” for a pandemic.
Multiple Obama-era officials have said they left a 2016 “pandemic playbook” that detailed exact steps to take in the event of an infectious disease outbreak. The White House press secretary even held up the actual document on the White House lawn.
There has been discussion in recent days as to whether the Obama plan was dated because it dealt with lessons learned from earlier outbreaks that may not apply to the current pandemic. Still, McConnell’s statement focused only on whether any such “game plan” existed, and ample evidence suggests it did.
We rate it Pants on Fire.
—Victoria Knight, Kaiser Health News
UPDATE: In a Fox News interview today (May 15), McConnell acknowledged he was incorrect in his assertion that the Obama administration didn’t leave behind any kind of “game plan” regarding a pandemic threat. “I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan, so I clearly made a mistake in that regard,” McConnell said.
He admitted on national TV that he was incorrect.
Cognitive decline may be the reason Senator McConnell can’t remember he voted on the establishment of DHS and the appropriations for DHS S&T Centers of Excellence. In fact, in 2005, Johns Hopkins University was selected as one of the centers and, among other things, conducted research on surge capacity and pandemics.
If Obama had a plan, it was only a plan. He forgot to stock up on face masks, gloves, respirators, etc.
Mike Cocchiola says
And you know this for sure, Veteran. How? Did you see the empty shelves? Were you there when the Obama administration said “lets not stock any emergency equipment so we can screw Trump”.
Edith Campins says
That is actually not true. The national stockpile was not empty as trump has claimed. The question is why if anything was depleted did he not do something about it in 3 1/2 years. Too busy tweeting, holding rallies and golfing?
Yolo Will says
If that is the case, please explain why trump did not replace the face masks, gloves, respirators, etc., in the three plus years that he has been there?
T-rump has been trying to be a real president and should have taken care of this. He said he is a stable genius but the swamp surrounding him is filled with clueless morons !!!
From being completely “Paranoid” and chasing complete “conspiracy theories”. . . to accepting ZERO responsibility for protecting us during this plague. . . to finger pointing and blaming China and President Obama for the “Complete Chaotic Failure” to save unnecessary suffering and LIVES! This administration, including McConnell and the Republican Senate, all share the same disease of being liers who are corrupt and despicable! They know no shame!
Well even if Obama had left nothing, Trump had over three years to correct it. Why didn’t he do something in those three years if he were so worried about it?
Dennis W. gause says
Because the dems would not leave him alone long enough to do any thing. I just wonder how one man can do as much as Trump did with all the BS and no help from the left, or the far left, which are all socialist. I thank mr. Trump for caring enough and seeing what I have seen for decades, what countries have done to our economy. He is the first to truely care about America. Let him drain the swamp. You all can still set a job, thanks to some one who cares…
Edith Campins says
Did you forget that Republicans had control of both houses of Congress for the first two years? Perhaps if he hadn’t spent so much time, (and tax dollars) holding rallies, tweeting and golfing he would have found time to read the pandemic handbook? What has he actually done for the country? Where is the healthcare plan he promised? Where is the infrastructure plan? Has his friend Kim, who he praised so much, gotten rid of a single nuke? If the national stockpile was depleted why didn’t he do anything about it for 3 1/2 years? Where is the middle class tax cut he promised in Nov. 2018? Where is the 10% raise he said he was going to give the military? Has he paid down the national debt like he promised or has he instead added trillions to it. Where is the 6% GDP he promised? Has he balanced the budget like he said he would? How many lives could have been saved if he had listened to our own intelligence agencies when they tried to warn him about the virus in November? As for our economy you seem to forget Bush left us a recession. Pres. Obama brought us out of it. He dealt with the housing market collapse, the failing banks and saved the American auto industry and those are facts.
Eva Mowry says
Dennis, we were sold a bill of BAD GOODS. Drain the swamp?? He drained it all right, of every patriotic member of the gov’t trying to do their job, and now HE IS the swamp, along with the snakes following his bidding.
David S. says
What do you expect from a bunch of stupid liars…..
Honest Truth says
TRump, McConnell and the Republican party continue to blame President Obama, do they forget that Trump has been in the White House for over 4 years and had plenty of time to correct what he felt was wrong? But from the day he walked into the White House he dismantles everything he could that President Obama did, he was that jealous of him.
Trump started the Fake News term and now he is starting more propaganda called Obamagate. The guy lies to the American people every time he opens his mouth.
He only cares about lining his own pocket and could care less about saving anyone’s life except his own.
It saddens me that people believe him and haven’t woken up to the real truth about who he really is.
The Reality Show continues and it is in the best interest of our country. He desperately wants to be a dictator like his idol Putin. It shows each and every day since he has taken office.
Wake up people and start smelling the coffee of the facts and truth.
I guess Governor Cuomo forgot to read this plan also!
It seems to me that Trump is not the only GOP elected person who has a difficult time reading, comprehending, analyzing and developing action plans. Be it local like Joe Mullins, State, like DeSantis or Federal like Trump, we need to dump all these self serving idiots. A country cannot survive when people are elected to leadership position who don’t care about the people who elected and supported them. Trump, like everything else in his life, when the challenges mount he put his rail between his bone spurs and tries to run away; marriages, airline, casinos, and a dozen other business operations including at least several that he paid fines for because the courts ruled them as frauds. Trump has been a looser his entire life and owes his success to the other losers who support and treat him like their God. Wakeup America and get rid of these unqualified, self serving and destructive asshole!
It’s just so wonderful to hear some of our patriotic, intelligent, educated, open minded, caring neighbors here speaking out. Thank You so much! Thank you for pointing out the factual evidence of trump’s completely disastrous botching of the response to this lethal pandemic each and every step of the way. He was elected president with the help of Putin. Therefore the buck stops with him! trump IS RESPONSIBLE for the needless pain, suffering and deaths of thousands of American citizens. . . no matter how much he tries to blame China and President Obama! And, McConnell is right there with him, doing his bidding! They both have blood on their hands!
trump has gotten rid of the experts in all areas of the federal government and surrounded himself with incompetent family members and sycophant campaign contributors who are slowly but surely completely ruining our country, our society, our education, our environment and our culture. . . and our right to vote! They are trying to stop voting by mail. . . during the time we will very likely see a huge resurgence of this highly CONTAGIOUS disease!
VOTE as if your life depends on the result. . . it does!
How long is it going to take for thinking people to realize that it is the DEMOCRATS who are breaking the laws, and that are trying to overthrow the President for their own power grab? It is so blatantly obvious that only brainwashed fools can’t see it for what it is. I’m not an attorney, but I’ve spent plenty of time in a courtroom as an expert witness. In my whole life, I have never seen ANY legal proceeding so blatantly egregious and abusive of justice as what the Democrats in the House have tried to push off as a legal proceeding in their never-ending witch hunt on President Trump and his Administration. I suspect that much of their desperation now stems from the fact that members of this Democrat lynch mob in Congress who fail to get re-elected and/or fail to hold a majority in the House know that a number of them will face prosecution and likely conviction for what they have done.
Please cite any “credible” evidence for your claim of crimes committed by Democrats.