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Trump adviser Peter Navarro at White House coronavirus briefing.

Photo by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Documents obtained by a House panel and released Tuesday showed Donald Trump's former trade adviser Peter Navarro, while tasked with overseeing global supply chains during the pandemic, unethically pressured government agencies to offer contracts to newly founded, Trump-allied corporations to produce medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and pharmaceutical ingredients.

According to a Politico report, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus procured the documents while investigating aspects of the coronavirus crisis, including the processes by which Trump's administration procured personal protective equipment for medical personnel.

One no-bid contract under investigation, worth $354 million, was awarded to the Phlow Corporation, which had newly incorporated before receiving the funds. The investigation showed that Navarro worked with an outside adviser who was "an associate of Steve Bannon," the former campaign manager and senior counselor to Trump, rather than relying on federal experts.

"Phlow needs to get greenlit as soon as humanly possible ... Please move this puppy in Trump time," Navarro wrote in one of many emails sent to heads of federal agencies.

"My head is going to explode if this contract does not get immediately approved," he wrote in another.

Politico noted that a second multimillion-dollar contract under investigation was awarded to a business founded a mere 11 days before receiving it — by Zachary Fuentes, one-time White House deputy chief of staff. His company was tasked with providing personal protective gear to the Navajo Nation by way of Indian Health Services, but the House investigation determined that the product that ultimately arrived was unusable.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus wrote in their findings, "When the respirator masks were delivered, IHS [Indian Health Services] determined that they were unsuitable for use in a medical or surgical environment."

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questionable business and trade dealings by Navarro during the pandemic.

In a memo written by Navarro and procured by the House subcommittee, the trade adviser wrote, "Since the first news from China of a viral pandemic, I forecast a significant global pandemic," and noted that "our supply chains are extremely vulnerable." He also said it would amount to a "very serious public health emergency" for which the administration had been "slow to prepare."

But less than a week prior, Navarro had appeared on Fox News to publicly declare, "[The] American economy is exceedingly strong and not particularly vulnerable to what happens in China."

Following a report by ProPublica, Navarro was also the subject of a House Oversight probe in August after he canceled without warning a nearly $650 million ventilator contract with Royal Philips. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chair of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said that on Navarro's watch, the administration had been "taken advantage of" by the company when it came to the "price of life-saving ventilators."

Navarro faced criticism immediately after stepping into the role of overseeing international supply chains during the pandemic, with many seeing him as uniquely unqualified for the position and tapped only by dint of his closeness with Trump.

Critics questioned whether his harsh tactics, which included seizing face masks from hoarders during the pandemic and strong-arming companies to increase ventilator production, actually helped the United States obtain important medical supplies, or whether they simply served to alienate multinational companies whose cooperation was badly needed.

In April of last year, National Foreign Trade Council President Rufus Yerxa told the New York Times, of Navarro's tactics, "There's a real danger that in an attempt to try to safeguard your own citizens you actually make the situation much, much worse. The reality is for a lot of types of medical equipment, we import more than we export. We should be trying to figure out how to coordinate with other countries to come up with some solution other than everybody getting involved in a beggar-thy-neighbor death spiral."

Navarro also backed Trump's widely criticized aluminum and steel tariffs despite criticism from the Pentagon, even as they harmed companies and concerned investors, and he was found by the Office of Special Counsel to have repeatedly violated the Hatch Act.

During the pandemic, he slammed top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci in an op-ed not approved through ordinary White House channels and promoted the untested use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

On Tuesday night, he took to Fox News to claim without evidence the disease was engineered in a Chinese laboratory and that Fauci was the "father" of the coronavirus.

"Fauci is a sociopath and a liar. He had nothing to do with the vaccine. The father of the vaccine is Donald J. Trump," Navarro said, touting conspiracy theories on the air. "What is Fauci the father of? Fauci is the father of the actual virus."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Photo by The White House

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