Apr 23, 2020 - Health

Political drama engulfs the Trump administration's coronavirus response

President Trump
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Political machinations within the Trump administration are playing a bigger and bigger role in the federal response to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: This probably isn't much of a confidence-booster for the American public as we navigate a pandemic and an economic freefall — and Wednesday's events were a microcosm of that larger issue.

What happened yesterday

Shortly after 10 a.m., President Trump tweeted that CDC director Robert Redfield was "totally misquoted" about the coronavirus' potential to be more difficult to handle next winter.

  • At last evening's news briefing, Redfield made an appearance alongside Trump only to tell reporters that he was "accurately quoted" in the Washington Post.

The Wall Street Journal published a deep dive into Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's alleged missteps early on in the coronavirus response.

Reuters then posted an article about Azar's chief of staff with the headline "HHS chief Azar had aide, former dog breeder, steer pandemic task force."

Rick Bright, who until earlier this week led Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, told the New York Times that he was ousted from his position after disagreements with HHS leadership, including about hydroxychloroquine — the drug repeatedly touted by Trump, without strong evidence, as a coronavirus treatment.

  • "I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections," he wrote in a statement. "Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit."
  • He added that he will request the HHS inspector general to investigate "the manner in which this Administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit." He's hired lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, who have a whistleblower practice.

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