After former President Donald Trump ignored his advice to ramp up the procurement of coronavirus supplies before the United States was overwhelmed by the pandemic, former White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro reportedly took it upon himself to get the job done. While some government officials, including Dr. Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, have spoken admirably about how seriously Navarro took the pandemic, the House subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak is concerned by his process, The Washington Post reports.
The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), alleges Navarro and other senior White House officials pursued “a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement in which senior White House officials steered contracts to particular companies without adequate diligence or competition.” One of those companies was Phlow, which was incorporated in January 2020 and had never manufactured drugs before. After a push from Navarro, BARDA awarded the firm with a $354 million contract, plus $458 million in options. A letter from the subcommittee explains Navarro was first introduced to Phlow’s eventual CEO in November 2019, and the Post reports the company had “won Navarro’s favor by making the argument that the United States was too dependent on Chinese manufacturing — a big concern” of his.
House investigators reportedly also obtained documents which reveal retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Trump ally, touted the company AirBoss, for which he was a paid consultant, to Navarro on March 22. That led to an immediate conversation between Airboss’ brass and White House officials, the Post reports. The next day, the company reportedly submitted a $96.4 million proposal, and Navarro’s team reportedly pressured the Federal Emergency Management Agency to finalize an updated version of the contract within a week. Read more at The Washington Post.