A little less than two months ago, the U.S. State Department made a curious announcement that suggests President Trump's "America First" administration put "China First" at a critical moment during the burgeoning Wuhan pandemic.
I asked the State Department about the controversy this week -- and the vague and nonresponsive responses I received on background from a Foggy Bottom spokesperson raise more questions than they answer.
The Feb. 7, 2020 press statement attributed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headlined: "The United States Announces Assistance to Combat the Novel Coronavirus." That week, we are told, the State Department "facilitated the transportation of nearly 17.8 tons of donated medical supplies to the Chinese people, including masks, gowns, gauze, respirators, and other vital materials. These donations are a testament to the generosity of the American people."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Nearly 18 tons of critical medical supplies went to the Communist government whose country unleashed COVID-19 on the world, downplayed it, punished whistleblowers who warned about it and attacked critics worldwide as racist? Whose idea was this "generosity?" Which "American people" approved this plan? Was the aid solicited or unsolicited? I asked our government.
The answer: "We have no additional details at this time."
The press statement elaborated further that "the United States government is announcing it is prepared to spend up to $100 million in existing funds to assist China and other impacted countries... to contain and combat the novel coronavirus. This commitment -- along with the hundreds of millions generously donated by the American private sector -- demonstrates strong U.S. leadership in response to the outbreak."
How much of the "up to $100 million" has been spent to assist China instead of the American people since Feb. 7, I asked our government.
The answer: No reply.
By what means were the 18 tons of medical goods transported: Air or sea? If by sea, on what ships were the goods transported to China and when and where did they arrive? If by air, which carriers transported the goods and when and where did they arrive?
(I asked about shipping because U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao's family owns the New York-based multinational shipping behemoth, Foremost Group. The mega-fleet was built in China, subsidized with loans from the ChiComs' Export-Import bank and conducts nearly three-quarters of its freight business in China. Secretary Chao was designated an "international consultant" of the Wuhan government in 2009. Her sister, Angela Chao, is CEO of Foremost and organized a humanitarian shipment of masks, gloves and gowns from New York to Wuhan in partnership with the "Hubei Charity Foundation" a week after the State Department's press statement.)
I also asked whether any of the precious medical supply items shipped to China in February were sent back to the U.S. as part of White House adviser Jared Kushner's "Project Airbridge" transfer of personal protective equipment last weekend from China to New York -- including 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, more than 10.3 million gloves and more than 70,000 thermometers?
Here's the full answer I received from the State Department spokesperson:
"In early February the American people demonstrated their characteristic generosity by donating 17.8 tons of medical supplies to help the Chinese people contain the impact and stem the spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan to other parts of China and the world. These donations were provided by Samaritan's Purse, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Intermountain Healthcare, and Boeing. The State Department facilitated the delivery of these medical supplies to Project HOPE in China on flights that ultimately brought home over 800 American citizens back from Wuhan at the outbreak of the pandemic."
Odd. Very odd. Boeing's huge shipment of 250,000 medical masks was reported on Jan. 29, more than a week before the State Department's announcement. Side note: Was it "characteristic generosity" or self-serving corporate relations? The troubled aircraft company has been desperately seeking business after China's de facto boycott the past couple of years and stands to benefit most from the China trade deal signed in January. Also: Did the multinational company's purported goodwill gesture deprive the American people of scarce PPE resources? Sure seems so.
LDS's own press statement about its donations to China was also released Jan. 29 and made no mention of the State Department's role in facilitating delivery of "220,000 respirator masks, 870 protective goggles and more than 6,500 protective coveralls." It appears LDS has its very own special relationship with "Project Hope," a nongovernmental organization that works closely with the Chinese Ministry of Health. The church chartered flights from Salt Lake City and Atlanta to Shanghai at the behest of its president, Dr. Russell Nelson, who had performed heart surgeries in China. Photos of the LDS church's PPE drop show LDS volunteers in Shanghai smiling in front of a massive wall of 3M boxes full of medical equipment on Feb. 4.
Finally, the State Department's red-flag mention that some of the planes used to deliver these resources to China brought back 800 Americans from Wuhan deserves more probing. Was this entire "charitable" exercise -- which sent abroad 18 tons of the very items Americans are now desperately scraping to manufacture out of paper towels, pillow fabric and bandanas -- cover for some sort of COVID-pro-quo?
Inquiring minds ought to want to know.