Peter Navarro speaks during a briefing on the pandemic, March 27. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Senior health officials in the Trump administration were taken aback last Monday when the president's trade adviser, Peter Navarro, accused them of being part of the "Deep State" during a meeting that was supposed to be about COVID-19 and the Strategic National Stockpile.
Why it matters: Five days after Navarro's private comments toward the FDA, the president echoed Navarro's sentiments with a pair of Saturday morning tweets and tagged Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration.
- "The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics," the president tweeted. "Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!"
- Trump then attacked the FDA for revoking its emergency use authorization "of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating COVID-19 amid growing evidence that the drugs are 'unlikely to be effective' in treating the coronavirus."
Behind the scenes: According to two sources in the Monday meeting, Navarro had aggressively confronted FDA officials, saying, "You are all Deep State and you need to get on Trump Time." (That's the expression Navarro uses to describe the speed that he says Trump demands.)
- Sources familiar with the situation said Navarro has been venting at the FDA for weeks at what he perceives as its slowness to approve therapeutics to fight COVID-19 and help the U.S. "bring our medical supply chain home."
- Navarro has argued that the FDA's slowness has cost lives during a pandemic.
- A third senior administration official said Navarro — a fervent proponent of hydroxychloroquine — remained angry at the FDA for saying the drug didn't work against COVID-19.
Senior health officials counter that the FDA needs to follow a rigorous process to ensure that the public can trust that they are operating by the book — and by the science, free from political pressure — and that whatever therapeutics and vaccines the FDA authorizes are safe for use.
- Asked about the reaction in the meeting to Navarro's comments, a source familiar said, "People just listened. A lot of the quote 'Deep State' people are shocked. But Navarro is Navarro."
- Navarro declined to comment.
What's next: Late Saturday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted, "News conference with President @realDonaldTrump at 6 pm tomorrow concerning a major therapeutic breakthrough on the China Virus. Secretary Azar and Dr. Hahn will be in attendance."
- Trump tweeted today, "Important White House News Conference at 5:30 (sharp) today. Very good news!"
- The Washington Post reports that Trump "will announce the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19, a treatment that already has been given to more than 70,000 patients, according to officials familiar with the decision."