Inside Trump’s frantic attempts to minimize the coronavirus crisis

Interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials, former White House aides, public health experts and lawmakers — many speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments and details — portray a White House scrambling to gain control of a rudderless response defined by bureaucratic infighting, confusion and misinformation.

“It’s complete chaos,” a senior administration official said. “Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the [expletive] is going on.”…

The decision to tap Pence and streamline all communication through the vice president’s office was primarily driven by a potent combination of a lack of leadership and structure inside the White House, four senior officials said, as well as a faulty CDC coronavirus diagnostic test, botched and conflicting messaging from senior health officials, and Trump’s obsession with the falling financial markets, two senior administration officials said. Many HHS employees fretted that financial concerns, rather than public health considerations, were dictating the administration’s response, one of the officials added…

Some of Pence’s own advisers wondered whether having Pence in charge was a good idea, given the messy situation and a lack of experience in his office on the topic. But, ever loyal, the vice president accepted the role assigned by Trump.