Sep 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top HHS spokesperson accuses government scientists of "sedition" against Trump

Caputo walks down a hallway while wearing a suit jacket

Michael Caputo in Washington, D.C. in May 2018. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo baselessly accused career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday of gathering a "resistance unit" for "sedition" against President Trump, the New York Times reports.

Driving the news: House Democrats are launching an investigation into allegations that Trump's political appointees — including Caputo, a former member of the Trump campaign with no scientific background — pressured CDC officials "to block the publication of accurate scientific reports" on the coronavirus.

What he's saying: Caputo encouraged followers to buy ammunition in a Facebook livestream on Sunday, while predicting that former Vice President Joe Biden would refuse to concede the 2020 election after, he believes, Trump wins re-election.

  • “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. "The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
  • Caputo described the killing of a right-wing activist during a pro-Trump rally in Portland — by a man who described himself on social media as "100% ANTIFA" — as a "drill," characterizing it, without evidence, as part of a broader attack on Trump supporters.
  • He also told his Facebook audience that he feels his "mental health has definitely failed" in part due to critical media coverage, and sounded "anguished" over the coronavirus death toll, according to the Times.

In attacks against CDC scientists, Caputo claimed they “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump,” per the Times. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

The other side: HHS told the Times in a statement that Caputo is "a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The big picture: Trump has echoed the kind of "deep state" rhetoric promoted by Caputo and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, claiming last month, without evidence, that the FDA was holding up progress on vaccines and therapeutics to damage him politically.

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