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Trump preparing to unveil second coronavirus task force, officials say

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 4/9/2020 Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb
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President Trump is preparing to announce as soon as this week a second, smaller coronavirus task force aimed specifically at combating the economic ramifications of the virus and focused on reopening the nation’s economy, according to four people familiar with the plans.

The task force will be made up of a mix of private-sector and top administration officials, including chief of staff Mark Meadows — whose first official day on the job was last week — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and national economic adviser Larry Kudlow, a senior administration official said.

Meadows is likely to lead the task force, though no official decision has been made, two senior administration officials said.

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Kevin Hassett, Trump’s former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, may also join the group, another official said.

Those people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The economic task force — which will be separate from the main coronavirus task force, despite having some overlapping members — will focus on how to reopen the country, as well as what businesses need to rebound amid catastrophic conditions. The goal is to get as much of the country as possible open by April 30, the current deadline Trump set for stringent social distancing measures.

The economic task force will not meet every day, like the large one, and is expected to have a more informal feel, with many of the meetings held over the phone and as in-person briefings with the president.

An announcement could come as early as this week, although within the West Wing, there were previous plans to announce this second task force earlier this week — and those were delayed.

The White House declined to comment.

The second task force adds yet another layer to an already unwieldy bureaucratic coronavirus response process within the White House; after becoming involved in the effort last month, Jared Kushner — Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — has also formed his own working group, which some dismissively refer to as a shadow task force.

The idea of a group dealing solely with the economic impact of the virus has recently been under consideration.

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After initially announcing an Easter deadline — which falls on April 12 this year — to reopen the country, the president reluctantly pushed the time frame back to April 30, amid strong urging by public health officials. But he has remained fixated on reopening the economy and has publicly mused about a second task force focused on this goal.

On Saturday, Trump shared a tweet by Fox News host Dana Perino, in which she suggested a supplemental economic task force. “I think we need a 2nd task force assembled at direction of POTUS to look ahead to reopening of the economy,” Perino wrote. “Made up of a nonpartisan/bipartisan mix of experts across industry sectors, so that we have their recommendations & plan - let 1st taskforce focus on crisis at the moment.”

Trump supported the proposal, writing, “Good idea Dana!”

Asked later at that day’s briefing whether he was, in fact, planning to go forward with a second task force, Trump replied that he was considering it.

“Thinking about it,” he said. “Getting a group of people. And we have to open our country. You know, I had an expression: ‘The cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.’ Right? I started by saying that, and I continue to say it: The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”

Trump concluded: “We’ve got to get our country open.”

ashley.parker@washpost.com

josh.dawsey@washpost.com

yasmeen.abutaleb@washpost.com 

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