Trump presidential commission weighed $10 trillion from China for pandemic damage

President Trump, before the 2020 election, considered setting up a blue-ribbon panel of experts to study the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic along with seeking as much as $10 trillion in reparations from Beijing for the damage, according to a book by former White House aide Peter Navarro.

The effort, which included a draft executive order, was scuttled by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. They persuaded Mr. Trump to reject the commission over fears that the inquiry would cause stock markets to crash or trigger a war with China, Mr. Navarro contends in his book, “In Trump Time,” being published Tuesday.

Mr. Navarro explained how he lined up key players inside the White House to support setting up a commission to publish a report on the virus’s origin before the presidential election, holding China accountable for the global outbreak. The commission’s interim report would be released two months before the November election in a bid to sway voters to back Mr. Trump‘s reelection, he stated.

The draft presidential order called for investigating the origin of the coronavirus, determining whether it really developed from a natural animal host as Beijing claimed, assessing the economic and human costs, and looking at whether China‘s ruling Communist Party exploited the pandemic to advance its political, economic and military agendas.

A preliminary estimate of damage to the U.S. population and economy was the value of an entire lost year of the U.S. gross domestic product, or more than $20 trillion. The federal government also spent more than $10 trillion in fiscal and monetary relief efforts to keep the economy from collapsing during the pandemic.

“By sticking China with a bill for the havoc it has wreaked on the U.S. economy and American people, we could effectively cancel our debt to China and still lay claim to trillions of dollars more in damages for the havoc inflicted by the CCP,” Mr. Navarro wrote, using the acronym for Chinese Communist Party. China holds about $1 trillion in U.S. government debt, second only to Japan among international creditors.

In addition to producing a clear statement on the pandemic, an interim report produced by the commission would help counter mainstream media reporting that sought to ignore China‘s role in the pandemic and blame Mr. Trump, who was campaigning for reelection.

“In the end, Mnuchin and Kudlow got it wrong on just about everything. And nowhere were they more wrong than on the issue of Communist China,” Mr. Navarro writes in “In Trump Time.”

Mr. Navarro wrote that he hoped the commission could be led by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, and include prominent virologists and biological weapons experts such as those at the Army’s Fort Detrick research base. The State Department would host and fund the commission.

However, the proposed “National Commission on the Origins and Costs of COVID-19” was blocked by what Mr. Navarro calls three unfounded “fears” that pro-China aides, Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Kudlow raised with the president.

The first fear was that China would cancel Mr. Trump‘s January 2020 “phase one” trade deal requiring significant purchases of American agricultural and manufactured exports by Beijing. There was also concern that a full-scale clash with China would cause the stock markets to dive just months before Election Day.

The last fear was that antagonizing Beijing might lead to a shooting war.

Mr. Navarro said he felt such a notion was curious because “we were already in a hot war with China, both economically and in cyberspace.”

The author recalls that the debate over the commission involved “sparks” and “insults” during a meeting in which Mr. Trump shook his head in exasperation with his feuding advisers.

Mr. Kudlow did not return an email seeking comment. 

A person close to Mr. Mnuchin said: “The secretary does not recall any conversations with Peter or others regarding this matter.”

Like many other China skeptics, Mr. Navarro believes the coronavirus behind the pandemic was biologically engineered. He also contends that the presidential election was stolen through Democrats’ “lawfare,” or legal warfare in altering voting rules in the months before the vote.

The ‘Green Bay Sweep’

Mr. Navarro, who served as assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, said he, Mr. Trump and former White House strategist Steve Bannon planned a Green Bay Packers-style political “sweep” to challenge Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The goal was to send the contested presidential election results from Congress to state legislatures to be decided.

As part of the strategy, Vice President Mike Pence was to use his authority as Senate president to put off congressional certification of the election for several weeks so state legislatures could investigate voting irregularities, mainly in how key states handled absentee and mail-in ballots.

The effort failed as a result of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which prompted the evacuation of Mr. Pence and other Trump loyalists in Congress. When lawmakers and Mr. Pence reassembled late in the day, they quickly certified a victory for Mr. Biden.

“The January 6, 2021, violence on Capitol Hill was not instigated by President Trump,” said Mr. Navarro, who provides one of the first insider accounts of the White House in the last days of the Trump administration. The adviser says the violence in the halls of Congress was against Mr. Trump‘s interests.

Mr. Trump “was the very last person to want such violence, precisely because it derailed his best chance to get a full and fair accounting of the flood of illegal ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election,” he stated.

“In this inglorious way, the Green Bay Sweep will end with either a fumble, a sack or an interception — choose your own football metaphor,” Mr. Navarro wrote. He added that the former vice president is to blame for betraying Mr. Trump and ending election integrity.

Mr. Navarro also blames White House aide Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump‘s son-in-law, for failing to anticipate the legal disputes after the election. Days afterward, “war officially breaks out between the Kushner-led campaign and a team led by the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani,” he stated.

In one White House dining room encounter, Mr. Navarro said, several aides urged Mr. Trump to announce a run for president in 2024. Mr. Navarro told him it was a “dumb idea” because it would signal Mr. Trump was conceding that the 2020 election was over.

“What you damn well need to do right now is fight,” Mr. Navarro told the president.

Instead, the Trump presidential campaign was “doing its best impression of Gen. George Custer at the Little Big Horn,” he said, noting that $70 million in campaign funds could have been used for legal challenges to Mr. Biden’s victory.

Mr. Navarro wrote that he urged Attorney General William Barr to order the Justice Department to investigate election fraud. He was told that private-sector lawyers representing the campaigns carried out challenges during the disputed 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

The title of Mr. Navarro‘s book, “In Trump Time,” is based on Mr. Trump‘s desire to accomplish things rapidly. Mr. Navarro said a second meaning reflects his four years in the administration.

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