Jared Kushner sparks controversy after praising administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as ‘a great success story’

By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing backlash Thursday after praising the administration’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic as a “great success story” on the same day that the nation’s official death toll from the virus surpassed 60,000.

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed,” Kushner told Fox and Friends Wednesday morning. “The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story. And I think that that’s really, you know, what needs to be told.”

Despite persistent problems with the country’s testing supply chain, Kushner said the question on testing shouldn’t be why did it take so long, but, “How did we do this so quickly?”

He also predicted the country will be “rocking” again by July.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice criticized Kushner’s comments on CNN Wednesday evening, saying his claim “would be laughable if it weren’t so deadly serious.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said Rice, who worked in the Obama administration. “I don’t know how anybody with a straight face can call this a ‘great success’ and declare this a mission accomplished moment when more than 60,000 Americans are dead.”

Rice noted that a second wave of infections is expected, citing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases who said last week that he is “convinced” there will be coronavirus infections in the fall.

“Dr. Fauci, whose judgment I trust implicitly, has just said that he believes a second wave in the fall is inevitable. And that’s the pattern of pandemics of the past,” Rice added.

“So we are far from being able to declare victory,” Rice went on. “And in any event, there’s no victory when the losses on the battlefield in less than two months exceed all of those through the entirety of the Vietnam War, 26-plus million Americans are out of work, the GDP is declining at a rate of almost 5%.”

John Cohen, former acting undersecretary for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, who served under the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations and is now an ABC News contributor, shared a similar sentiment.

“It is not a success when 60,000 Americans die in approximately three months. Claiming victory while we are still in the midst of a national crisis speaks to the alternate reality some are living in,” he said.

Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor and Justice Department inspector general under the Clinton administration, also took to Twitter to denounce Kushner’s assessment.

“Doubtful that the public has a high level of confidence in the self-serving conclusions and pronouncements of Dr. Kushner,” Bromwich tweeted. “On what planet is 59,000 plus deaths a ‘success story’?”

Kushner, in his interview, did not discuss the severe problems with the country’s testing supply chain, the lack of approved treatments or a vaccine for the disease and seemed to push back against the recommendations made by the doctors on the coronavirus task force who say social distancing will continue through the summer.

“May will be a transition month,” Kushner continued. “I think you will see by June, a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country is really rocking again.”

Trump on Wednesday also congratulated his administration’s response while rejecting the idea of a “new normal” at a business roundtable event focused on “Opening Up America Again.”

“We did all the right moves,” the president said. “This is going away.”

“I see the new normal being what it was three months ago,” he continued. “Hopefully in the not too distant future, we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other.”

The pressure for Trump and his allies to shift the narrative comes as the November election approaches and some polling shows the president trailing presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

“The eternal lockdown crowd can make jokes on late-night television,” Kushner added on Fox, “but the reality is that the data’s on our side.”

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