When countries were scrambling for personal protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic, Donald Trump was using a trick from his real estate days to undermine them, a former aide to Boris Johnson told a British parliamentary committee.
“At this point we had Trump sending the CIA round trying to gazump everybody on PPE,” Dominic Cummings, a former chief adviser to the prime minister, told members of Parliament in an explosive evidence session on Wednesday.
“Gazump” is a British real estate term, meaning to outbid a buyer after the seller has already agreed to a price. In the spring of 2020, many countries were desperately buying up hospital masks and gowns from suppliers like China, but Mr Cummings said the US government frequently tried to sabotage those purchases.
Meanwhile, Mr Cummings said, Britain’s own efforts to obtain those supplies were “completely hopeless.”
“There wasn’t any system set up to deal with proper emergency procurement,” he told MPs. “When I was having PPE meetings around the cabinet room table, we were told, ‘Oh, well, the PPE obviously isn’t going to arrive for months’… because it takes that long to ship.”
Mr Cummings eventually left Mr Johnson’s government in November 2020 after falling out with the prime minister. On Wednesday, he aired an extraordinary number of grievances about that government as he spoke to a committee reviewing the country’s early pandemic response.
Mr Trump came up more than once. In another undermining incident, Mr Cummings said the American president distracted an urgent Covid strategy meeting by suddenly demanding Britain’s support for an airstrike in Iraq.
The former Johnson adviser said the call came on 12 March, just as British officials were deciding whether to impose a lockdown.
“Suddenly, the national security people came in and said, ‘Trump wants us to join a bombing campaign in the Middle East tonight’, and we need to start having meetings about that through the day with Cobra [Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms] as well,” Mr Cummings said.
“So everything to do with Cobra that day on Covid was completely disrupted because you had these two parallel sets of meetings. You had the national security people running in and out talking about, ‘Are we going to bomb the Middle East?’”
The US government eventually carried out the bombing itself, without Britain’s involvement.
The Trump Organization has not yet responded to The Independent’s request for comment.