George Helmy was able to forge a relationship with Jared Kushner at a critical moment during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that secured life-saving ventilators for New Jersey just as the state was on the verge of running out, the former White House senior advisor reveals in his new memoir.
As Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief of staff, Helmy called Kushner to make to make his pitch.
“Helmy had a precise answer to all my questions about New Jersey’s usage rates. He sent me a spreadsheet calculating that New Jersey’s ventilator supply would run out in three days,” Kushner wrote . “We sent five hundred right away.
Despite severe policy differences between Murphy and President Donald Trump, Helmy and Kushner, who grew up in Livingston, became allies in the war to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“We agreed to speak every day at 7:00 a.m., and I promised that as long as we had the supplies and he had the data, we would stay twenty-four to forty-eight hours ahead of New Jersey’s needs,” Kushner recalled in his book, Breaking History: A White House Memoir, portions of which were reviewed by the New Jersey Globe.
Kushner, who devours numbers and data, seemed to like and respect the no-nonsense Helmy, who was a management consultant and businessman, as well as an aide to two United States Senators. He described him as “talented and affable.”
After Vanity Fair reported three months before the 2020 presidential election that partisan politics factored into the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response, Helmy defended the relationship between Democratic governors and the White House.
“From the president on through the highest levels of the administration, we always felt we were a priority to the administration,” George Helmy told Newsweek. “There was never a moment in which I felt that New Jersey was not a priority.”
Helmy’s fellowship with Kushner to aid New Jersey stood in contrast to a fight over ventilators between the White House and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the same time.
After releasing 4,400 ventilators to the federal stockpile to New York, Kushner found out that Cuomo had instead “funneled” 2,000 of them to a warehouse he controlled.
“We did not send the ventilators from the federal stockpile to sit unused in New York’s stockpile,” he told New York. “Please send the two thousand ventilators to New York City before people die.”
But Cuomo resisted, Kushner says, and while he was “trying to break the impasse,” he found out that Vice President Mike Pence had also promised extra ventilators to New York City.
“Based on our projections, we still had seventy-two hours before the situation in New York City turned dire, and I wanted to use every available second on the clock to ensure that we didn’t distribute ventilators to a place that didn’t absolutely need them,” stated Kushner.
Instead, Kushner sent the ventilator to a federal facility in New Jersey, where they could be delivered to New York within hours.
Cuomo eventually backed down, Kushner wrote.
Kushner’s book will be released on August 23.