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HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

House Democrats are launching an investigation into how Trump's political appointees pressured officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to block the publication of accurate scientific reports" on COVID-19, according to a letter first obtained by Politico.

Details: Citing previous reporting that Trump aides "openly complained" that the CDC's reports would undermine the president's positive message, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and the other Democratic members of the subcommittee on the coronavirus wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC director Robert Redfield to request "transcribed interviews and documents."

What they're saying: "With nearly 200,000 Americans killed and hundreds more dying each day from the coronavirus pandemic, the public needs and deserves truthful scientific information so they can keep themselves and their families healthy," Clyburn and the other Democrats wrote.

  • "Yet in discussing the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, President Trump admitted, 'I wanted to always play it down' and, 'I still like playing it down.' We are gravely concerned by reports showing that the President’s political appointees at HHS have sought to help him downplay the risks of the coronavirus crisis by attempting to alter, delay, and block critical scientific reports from CDC."

Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official and now the main spokesperson at HHS has defended the aides' actions, telling Politico that "[b]uried in this good [CDC] work are sometimes stories which seem to purposefully mislead and undermine the President’s Covid response with what some scientists label as poor scholarship — and others call politics disguised in science."

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dec 22, 2020 - Health

Deborah Birx says she will retire

Photo: Alex Wong via Getty

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told Newsy on Tuesday that she plans to retire.

Driving the news: Birx did not provide a specific timeline, but said she is willing to wait and help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response if needed.

Dec 22, 2020 - Health

Antarctica reports first coronavirus cases

King George Island in Antarctica. Photo: Alessandro Dahan/Getty Images

Thirty-six people stationed at a Chilean research base in Antarctica have tested positive for COVID-19, media reports.

Why it matters: Every continent on Earth has now reported coronavirus infections. Travel and research in Antarctica, which houses about 1,000 people on 40 bases, had already been significantly limited, per the New York Times. Experts expect there to be long-term restrictions on the continent, given its isolation and extreme environment.