The House report says Trump aides blocked public health officials from providing accurate Covid-19 information during the pandemic



CNN

The Trump administration “usurped control of CDC communications and blocked public health officials from providing accurate information about the coronavirus to the American people,” the House Select Subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, led by Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn, said in a report released Monday. .

In the third broad investigation into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic officials spoke with several senior officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including former director Dr. Robert Redfield, who Trump officials said blocked the department. relaying information to Americans at the start of the pandemic. The subcommittee also spoke with senior officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.

The subcommittee’s 91-page report used interviews with officials to allege that former President Donald Trump and his team “installed political operatives who sought to downplay the severity of the pandemic.”

At one point, Kate Galatas, a senior communications officer at the CDC, told the subcommittee that Michael Caputo, a close Trump ally appointed assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, had used “bullying behavior.” CDC officials “feel threatened.”

Caputo discussed the report’s findings in an interview with CNN.

“That’s a lie. Donald Trump hired me to communicate the severity of the pandemic, I was hired to do that, I led a team of 400 people to do that,” Caputo said in an interview with CNN.

“(Galatas) was a staff problem that I wrote about once and I can understand why he didn’t appreciate my management style because he was very difficult to manage,” Caputo added about the CDC communications officer’s comments.

The report also includes allegations by Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, that he was “not asked to do TV again” after Caputo was upset with Butler’s statements, which he allegedly found “too disturbing.”

Caputo also disputed that point in the report.

“I didn’t tell anyone they were disturbing,” she said. “Every day I sat through high-stress conferences where we were talking about deaths.”

Caputo criticized the report, saying he was never interviewed by the House subcommittee but made himself available.

“I don’t care what they say, or how they say it, whether it’s in a political document written by the Democrats before the election, which I have no respect for, or whether it’s in other ways,” he said.

Redfield also told the committee in his interview that administration officials sometimes “compromised” the CDC’s Covid-19 guidelines. The subcommittee report said Redfield told them the process of editing these documents “became complicated” and that the process gave him “PTSD.” An official, Dr. Christine Casey, editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series, told the committee that the process was “very unusual” for the Trump administration.

The commission also wrote in its investigation that HHS officials of the Trump administration tried to influence the CDC’s scientific reports on the Covid-19 pandemic between May and mid-September 2020, editing the content or blocking the publication of at least 19 different ones. Reports they thought could be damaging to Trump.

The report also noted that HHS political appointees were successful in “modifying or delaying the release of at least five scientific reports, as well as pressuring the CDC to change the editorial process of the MMWR.”

The subcommittee determined that the affected reports were primarily published in MMWR, the CDC’s flagship publication, but HHS officials also interfered with at least one advisory from the Health Alert Network providing doctors with urgent public health information.

“HHS officials also took unprecedented steps to include political appointees in the publication process and suppress CDC scientific reports, including issuing opinions and other public messages designed to directly counter CDC findings,” the report stated.

In another case early in the pandemic, CDC officials told the committee they believed Trump officials had exploited the CDC’s Title 42 authority to close the border. Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told the committee that the border closure document “was not written by me or my team,” but “was given to us.”

Cetron added that he “stuck” himself to work on the document. Signed by Redfield.

“The Select Subcommittee’s investigation has shown that the previous administration engaged in unprecedented political interference in the federal government’s pandemic response, undermining public health to benefit the former president’s political goals,” Clyburn said in a statement. “As today’s report shows, President Trump and his top aides repeatedly attacked CDC scientists, compromised the agency’s public health guidelines and suppressed scientific reports in an effort to downplay the severity of the coronavirus.”

He added: “The prioritization of politics, disdain for science, and refusal to follow the advice of public health experts undermined the nation’s ability to effectively respond to the coronavirus crisis and put Americans at risk. As we continue to recover from the coronavirus crisis, we must protect scientific integrity and support the American people in our public health institutions.” We must also continue to work to restore his trust.

The subcommittee’s report concluded: “The Trump administration’s attacks on the CDC’s response to the pandemic and on CDC scientists reflected a larger pattern of hostility that ultimately affected a broad swath of public health officials and agencies.”

The report is the third in a series by the select subcommittee, the first of which detailed how the Trump administration worked to undermine the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic by preventing officials from speaking publicly, and the second of which denounced how the Trump administration did so. The “crusade” against the US Food and Drug Administration.