October 18, 2022

Trump appointees ran an urgent campaign to restrict immigration at the border, change scientific reports and muzzle top officials at the CDC, according to emails, text messages and interviews gathered by a congressional panel investigating the pandemic response. Via the Washington Post:

Former CDC director Robert Redfield, former top deputy Anne Schuchat and others described how the Trump White House and its allies repeatedly “bullied” staff, tried to rewrite their publications and threatened their jobs in an attempt to align the CDC with the more optimistic view of the pandemic espoused by Donald Trump, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis concluded in a report released Monday.

"More optimistic view." Gag me. What a gentle way of pointing out the countless deaths that resulted from Trump's public relations push.

Several public health officials detailed a months-long campaign against Schuchat sparked by Trump appointees’ belief that her grim assessments of the pandemic reflected poorly on the president, leading Schuchat, a 32-year CDC veteran, to openly wonder if she would be fired in the summer of 2020, her colleagues told the panel.

The panel’s latest report also offers new insight into key flash points, such as a CDC-backed plan to require masks on public and commercial transportation in the summer of 2020, with Martin Cetron, director of the agency’s division of global migration and quarantine, citing evidence that the requirement would reduce covid risks to travelers.

The plan was backed by the travel industry and “could have made a significant contribution” by curbing infections and deaths ahead of a fall and winter virus surge that year, Cetron added, but Trump officials blocked the measure. President Biden later issued a similar order on his second day in office in January 2021.

And yes, the Trump administration tried to adjust the mortality and morbidity numbers -- or, as they called it on The Wire, "juke the stats":

The report also details how Trump appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services worked to wrest control of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings and had been considered off-limits to political appointees for decades.

McGowan and Campbell told the panel that fellow Trump appointees were angry about a May 2020 MMWR written by Schuchat that they believed did not give them sufficient credit for their efforts to contain the pandemic.

“Secretary [Alex] Azar, in particular, was upset and said that if the CDC would not get in line, then HHS would take control of approving the publication,” McGowan and Campbell’s lawyer wrote to the panel. As a result, Trump appointees increasingly received access to the CDC’s draft summaries and sought to edit or block the reports, including one on the rise in hydroxychloroquine prescriptions that was held up for more than two months amid concerns that it would call attention to an unproven treatment touted by Trump.

Azar, of course, is denying the report. A former lobbyist for Big Pharma wouldn't lie, right?

Running government like a business! Why people still fall for that line is beyond me, because all the evidence points to its dangerous failure.

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