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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 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. 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.