In an effort to combat the coronavirus, the Trump administration has cast a wide net, soliciting ideas from industry leaders, family-connected doctors, foreign officials, TV personalities, and fresh-out-of-college consultants to help solve crises around testing and medical supplies. They also set up an email tipline, on the off chance that someone might send a proverbial silver bullet.
Little did they expect that one of Donald Trump’s exes would use it.
During the pandemic, Marla Maples, an actress and the president’s second wife, has stayed in touch with a coterie of friends and informal advisers, with whom she has traded tidbits and medical advice on how to combat the deadly virus. In recent weeks, she has quietly transmitted some of those ideas to the Trump White House, in an effort to get them in front of the president—her ex-husband—and senior staffers, two Trump administration officials familiar with the outreach tell The Daily Beast.
It is unclear if any of these Maples-approved, pandemic-related tips have landed on President Trump’s desk. And it’s not clear which specific tips from her inner circle she has relayed to the Trump team. One of the officials said they first became aware of Maples’ leads after realizing her name had popped up on the “Covid Mail” tipline, an internal White House email account that is regularly accessed by a small group of Trump officials.
“[Marla] is one of many Americans trying to be helpful in these tough times,” the second Trump administration official said. “Absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
The White House set up “Covid Mail” to field suggestions and questions from “friends and family,” as well as from American health professionals and private-sector envoys, who are trying to get information on supplies and treatments to the West Wing and federal agencies. According to The Washington Post, which first reported on the system last month, “some officials have privately worried that these [Covid Mail] missives receive priority and distract from more crucial scientific pursuits” regarding the coronavirus.
Maples’ rep declined to comment for this report, and White House spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment. But reached for comment early this week, Maples messaged The Daily Beast: “PPE is not an area I’m focused on, but the health and well-being of all people is of the highest importance to me. Thank you.”
Maples then added a prayer-hands emoji.
She did not respond to several follow-up questions regarding “Covid Mail,” the extent of her virus and health-related outreach to the Trump administration, or what specific advice or plans she sent along.
A quick browse of Maples’ public social-media accounts, including Twitter and Instagram, offers a glimpse into her clique of friendly doctors and health and spirituality consultants. Like many during the coronavirus crisis, she has regularly posted about her and her friends’ perspectives on the illness and has emphasized her own concerns, including the compounding effects that Lyme disease may have on those infected with the virus.
“Thx so much @realDonaldTrump for bravely exposing the truth abt #Lyme I suffered in my 20s but many have suffered more than me. Here is a brilliant book #Chronic just written by my dear friends,” the president’s ex, and mother of his daughter Tiffany, tweeted last month.
One of the Ph.D.s who’s been mentioned recently on Maples’ Twitter page is Robert Epstein. Epstein is a close friend of both Maples and Tiffany; so close, in fact, that in an interview he explained that he, along with other adults, “got drunk at Tiffany’s 16th birthday party.”
Epstein, a psychologist whose study on alleged bias in Google search results attracted the attention of anti-Big Tech conservatives and President Trump himself, told The Daily Beast that he is “not a Trump supporter by any means,” but that he’s been trying to get his plan on coronavirus mass-testing in front of the president for weeks. As part of his efforts, he has gotten himself booked on conservative media that the president consumes. Epstein appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show—one of Trump’s favorite cable-news programs—to discuss testing and re-opening the U.S. economy.
Epstein said that he was aware that “Marla has a group of friends somehow working on” coronavirus issues. But he was not sure who exactly was in the group. He said that he’s been in touch with “two people at the White House fairly regularly… but to my knowledge, [my proposal] has not been brought to [Trump’s] attention.” He was not certain if Maples herself had tried to facilitate the delivery of his “National Testing Day plan” to the president but he did recall talking about it with her and her daughter.
“Of course they were very, very enthusiastic,” he recounted. “I asked them for advice [about] how to bring this to the president’s attention. And I’m sure I said something to the effect of ‘If you have any way to bring this to his attention, I hope you would consider that’… But I’m not sure if they did, and I’m not sure what they have or haven’t brought to President Trump’s attention.”
Another Maples associate, Shiva Ayyadurai, is also trying to get his plan to Trump’s desk. Ayyadurai—who likes to go by “Dr. Shiva” and has made the widely challenged claim that he is the “Inventor of Email”—is also known online for championing an unsubstantiated vitamin treatment for the coronavirus, and has alleged that Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, is a nefarious cog of the anti-Trump “deep state.” Shiva, who is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, is also a crusader against vaccines, and is locked in a feud with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the country’s more prominent anti-vaccine advocates.
In text messages sent Monday evening, Shiva said he’d written a letter on his “solution” for the coronavirus pandemic to the White House and claimed that “many people like [Marla] loved the letter and videos [regarding the coronavirus crisis], including Democrats and Republicans who have access to him.” He continued, “I’m sure she tried [to get them to the president] as well as the others,” but didn’t appear certain if she had.
On her public social-media posts, Maples doesn’t seem to share many of the views espoused by Shiva and others. For the most part, when she is speaking publicly about the virus, she doesn’t focus on subjects like trying to get Fauci fired, but instead on more nebulous topics like human wellness and spirituality.
“This is the time to believe unlimited miracles are available. It’s up to us,” she posted to Instagram in late April. “Every time darkness is present there is the potential of the opposite of this… Hold the vision for miraculous alignments in your life.”