According to a public congressional report, former US president Donald Trump’s administration stopped health officials from providing accurate information about Covid-19 to support his overly pessimistic assessment of the outbreak.
To align guidance with the president’s public downplaying of the crisis, senior staff at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told investigators that Trump aides bullied staff and attempted to rewrite their reports.
According to the report, officials took “unprecedented steps to insert political appointees into the publication process and refute CDC’s scientific reports, including drafting op-eds and other public messaging intended to directly refute CDC’s findings.”
For the 91-page report on the coronavirus crisis released by the House select subcommittee, investigators spoke with a dozen current and former CDC officials and senior administration figures.
The panel explains how Trump appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) attempted to monopolize the CDC’s weekly scientific journal, the Morbidity, and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), by editing or preventing articles they thought might be detrimental to Trump.
At least five times, Trump appointees successfully attempted to “alter the contents, rebut, or delay the release” of 18 MMWRs and a health alert.
According to the report, a CDC communications officer reported that an HHS employee who supports Trump had shown “bully-like conduct” and made CDC staff “feel frightened.”
The CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, Jay Butler, said that after his comments were judged “too worrisome,” he was “not actually requested back to give telebriefings.”
The investigation conducted by the Select Subcommittee, led by Democrat Jim Clyburn, “has demonstrated that the previous administration engaged in an unprecedented campaign of political interference in the federal government’s pandemic response, which undermined public health to benefit the former president’s political goals.”
As today’s report demonstrates, President Trump and his closest advisers often assaulted CDC researchers, undermined the organization’s public health recommendations, and hid scientific findings to minimize the coronavirus’s severity.
An earlier article described the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent federal health authorities from discussing the epidemic publicly.
Another explained its efforts to persuade the US Food and Drug Administration to renew the emergency authorization for the anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine, which Trump was promoting even though it was ineffective in treating Covid-19.
If they take back control of the House or the Senate in November’s midterm elections, Republicans have threatened to launch their investigation and have rejected the most recent report as political.