President Trump is flanked by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma at an event in July. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The working relationship between the Trump administration's top health officials, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, has grown so dysfunctional that both President Trump and Vice President Pence have intervened to try to salvage the situation, according to three senior administration officials.

Why it matters: It's an extraordinary intervention at the highest levels of government. And it highlights, as Politico extensively reported, the White House's urgent desire for the heads of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to repair their working relationship.

Behind the scenes: Azar had a clearing of the air meeting with Verma on Wednesday, at Pence's request, according to two administration officials. This wasn't the first time the White House had to intervene to fix this broken relationship at the top of HHS.

  • On Nov. 15, at the White House event on price transparency, Trump challenged Azar about his troubled working relationship with Verma, per two senior administration officials.
  • The president had made clear, according to a third administration official, that he "is fond of both of them and he expects them to work together on what could easily be a signature issue in 2020 for him."
  • “He just wants them to figure it out between themselves and get the work done,” per a fourth source familiar with the president’s view of the situation.

The tensions between the two officials have already disrupted the rollout of health care initiatives that Trump's team considers important for his reelection.

  • This includes the delay of the administration's Affordable Care Act replacement proposal, which Verma spent six months developing only to have Azar kill it before it reached the president, Politico reported.
  • This Laura Ingraham tweet, in which the Fox host attacked Verma the day the Politico story came out, caught the attention of senior administration officials. Administration officials regard Ingraham — who has lavished praise on Azar — as a staunch ally of the HHS secretary.

At their meeting on Wednesday, Verma raised her concerns directly with Azar about his leadership style. The two officials agreed to try to work better together and that her concerns would be addressed and mitigated going forward, a source familiar with the meeting added.

  • “These concerns are predominantly about media rollouts and in some cases staffing issues that are not reflective of a leadership or management style,” another source familiar with the meeting pushed back. “They are individual instances that are petty and not reflective of a larger leadership or management style.”

HHS, CMS and the White House did not provide a comment.

Go deeper... Azar: Trump says America should get "the best deal" on drug prices

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Deadly storm Zeta pummels parts of Alabama and Florida

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Former Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm's powerful winds and heavy rainfall moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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