According to a damning new report published Monday, aides from former President Donald Trump’s administration interfered with communications from a leading public health agency in order to downplay the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
Aides “usurped control of CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) communications and prevented public health officials from providing accurate information about the coronavirus to the American people,” according to the 91-page report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn.
It was the subcommittee’s third investigational report on the previous administration’s handling of the pandemic. The first report claimed that Trump attempted to prevent health experts from publicly discussing the crisis, while the second claimed that he engaged in a “knife fight” with the Food and Drug Administration.
Officials interviewed senior CDC officials, including former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and learned that Trump administration officials prevented the agency from providing information to the American public early in the pandemic.
Other findings in the report include that aides: “installed political operatives who sought to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic and retaliated against career officials who contradicted Trump administration talking points; overruled scientists to weaken multiple CDC guidance documents and to exploit and counteract CDC’s public health authorities to achieve political goals; attempted to manipulate the content and block the publication of CDC’s scientific reports and destroy evidence of such political interference; and diverted taxpayer money away from CDC to inject overtly pro-Trump slogans into public service announcements about vaccines.”
During the pandemic, Redfield said, the process of developing guidance “got complicated,” giving him “PTSD.” In a transcribed interview for the report, he also stated that White House officials in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) effectively had veto power over the CDC’s coronavirus guidance, explaining, “We didn’t usually get the approval to issue the guidance until OMB gave it a thumbs up.”
On Monday, Clyburn told MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” that CDC scientists were “not prepared to deal with political interference.”
“Their job is to simply do the research, do the science, inform the public, and then hopefully the leadership will be there by the politicians to do what’s necessary to protect the public. Instead, they had their information supplanted and deleted and, in many instances, they were insulted and embarrassed.”
The report comes as known COVID cases in the United States continue to decline and are now at their lowest level since mid-April, though the true tally is likely higher given how many people test at home, where data are not collected.
According to a New York Times tracker, the daily average for new cases was 37,655 on Monday, down 17% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations has decreased by 4% to 26,413, while the daily average for deaths has decreased by 7% to 357.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, began the Communist Party congress in Beijing by defending his ten years in power and pledging to run for a third five-year term. By staying in power, he would break succession norms established to prevent a return to a Mao-style dictatorship.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 625.3 million on Monday, while the death toll surpassed 6.56 million.
With 96.9 million cases and 1,065,441 fatalities, the United States leads the world.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker, 226.2 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated, accounting for 68.1% of the total population. Only 110.8 million people have received a booster, accounting for 49% of the vaccinated population, and 25.6 million of those eligible for a second booster have received one, accounting for 39% of those who received a first booster.
Some 14.8 million people have had a shot of the new bivalent booster that targets the new omicron subvariants.