Former President Trump reportedly suggested sending Americans infected with the COVID-19 virus to Guantanamo Bay in an effort to stem the rapidly growing number of cases on U.S. soil in the early days of the pandemic, officials told reporters according to a new book.
Trump reportedly asked attendees of a February 2020 meeting in the Situation Room gathered to discuss whether to bring infected Americans home for care: “Don’t we have an island that we own?” and “What about Guantánamo?”
“We import goods,” Trump reportedly said to his staff, adding, “We are not going to import a virus.”
The new details come from “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” authored by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta.
The book, set to be published June 29, includes interviews from more than 180 people, including a number of White House senior staff members and government health leaders.
According to the Post, aides were reportedly stunned by Trump’s suggestion to quarantine American tourists on the same base where the U.S. detains terrorism suspects.
They quickly quashed the idea when the president mentioned it a second time.
The book also reveals Trump’s private reaction to the testing crisis that plagued the country’s initial response to the pandemic.
“Testing is killing me!” Trump reportedly told then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a phone call on March 18. Trump was yelling so loud that aides were said to have overheard every word of the conversation.
“I’m going to lose the election because of testing! What idiot had the federal government do testing?” Trump exclaimed.
“Uh, do you mean Jared?” Azar responded, according to the Post, referring to the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who five days earlier said he would spearhead the country’s testing strategy by enlisting the help of the private sector.
Trump said the U.S. government should not have taken a role in testing and argued with Azar about why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wanted to track cases.
“This was gross incompetence to let CDC develop a test,” Trump reportedly said to Azar.