Trump Officials Boasted About Attempts To Downplay Coronavirus Pandemic, Emails Show

[view original post]


Trump advisers privately boasted about attempts to influence coronavirus reports from the Centers for Disease Control in order to downplay the pandemic, and used personal email accounts for government work, according to documents released by a congressional subcommittee Friday. 

Key Facts

The Trump-appointed Health and Human Services officials sought to interfere with scientific reports as part of an effort to aid the former president with a push to reopen the economy, the House subcommittee said as it released the documents as part of an ongoing investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an email to a top public affairs official at HHS in September 2020, then-science adviser Paul Alexander touted two examples of “CDC adjusting writing based on [his] inquiry,” including by eliminating a reference to potential virus outbreaks in schools. 

“Small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!” Alexander wrote to Michael Caputo, then the HHS assistant secretary for public affairs.

Alexander wrote to then-science adviser Scott Atlas days later about the upcoming release of a CDC report on Covid-19 deaths among teens and children, claiming it was “timed for the election” and designed to “damage the administration.”

“Let us advise the President and get permission to pre-empt this please for it will run for the weekend so we need to blunt the edge as it is misleading,” Alexander wrote in the Sept. 11 email. 

Key Background

A month earlier, Alexander praised then-CDC acting chief of staff Nina Witkofsky for a weekly public health report at the department that he viewed as “more positive than usual” and appeared to suggest she may have played a role in that. “So have you seen this shift?” Alexander wrote Aug. 30. “Maybe you are having a huge impact and this is tremendous.  Well done!”

Chief Critic

In a December statement, HHS denied allegations of political interference in the pandemic response. “While the administration is focused on vaccination shots, the subcommittee is focused on cheap shots to create headlines and mislead the American people,” HHS said. 

What To Watch For

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has requested additional documents and interviews from Alexander and Atlas, who could not immediately be reached for comment by Forbes, on their roles in the pandemic response under Trump.