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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.

Go deeper

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  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.

Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congress passes massive coronavirus relief and government spending package

Photo: Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

The House and Senate passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a $1.4 trillion government funding measure Monday night after months of gridlock on Capitol Hill.

Why it matters: The bill’s passage comes before many of the existing coronavirus relief measures were set to expire on January 1. It also staves off a government shutdown.