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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise

Screenshot from Oct. 2, 2020 Oversight Committee/ YouTube

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A new analysis reveals that throughout President Donald Trump's failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout that has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans and left millions unemployed without public support, his administration has "engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference—repeatedly overruling and sidelining top scientists and undermining Americans' health to advance the president's partisan agenda."

The report (pdf) released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis documents 47 separate instances in which White House officials have "attacked and undermined health experts" in the past eight months.



The report "does not capture each instance in which Trump or his appointees downplayed the danger of the virus to the public, made false and misleading statements about the science, and misstated key facts about the administration's response," but rather focuses on "instances where the administration actively interfered in the nation's public health response through executive action or public or private pressure."

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, White House officials, and political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies have interfered dozens of times both publicly and behind closed doors during the pandemic, the report states.

"These incidents have degraded every major facet of the administration's public health response," the report notes, "including efforts to provide Americans access to testing and personal protective equipment, develop treatments and vaccines, and provide scientifically sound advice to the public on masks, social distancing, and other steps to stay safe."

According to the subcommittee's analysis of public reporting and internal investigations, Trump's political appointees have:

  • Pressured health experts to adopt the administration's talking points, even when they conflict with the science;
  • Criticized, sidelined, and fired experts who insisted on sharing accurate scientific information with the public;
  • Altered, delayed, and suppressed guidance and scientific reports on testing, protecting children, reopening schools, voting safely, and other topics;
  • Authorized questionable virus treatments over the objections of scientists;
  • Resisted efforts to ensure the safe development of a vaccine; and
  • Diverted $265 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration for an ad campaign to "defeat despair and inspire hope" weeks before Election Day.

The first documented case of political interference occurred on February 20 when the administration rejected the CDC's recommendation to separate infected and non-infected cruise ship passengers onto different flights.

There were 17 incidents in August and September alone, and the most recent instance examined by the subcommittee is also related to the cruise ship industry. On September 29, Pence overruled CDC Director Redfield's recommendation to "extend a no-sail order on passenger cruises until February 2021."

Axios reported at the time that "public health officials have privately complained that the thwarting of Redfield on the cruise ship ban is politically motivated because the industry is a major economic presence in Florida—a key battleground state where the polls are statistically tied."

According to the subcomittee, the "apparent goal" of the Trump administration's "unprecedented, coordinated attack on our nation's public health agencies... was, in the president's words, to 'play it down.'"

Less than two days before Trump—along with 43,000 additional Americans who have tested positive in the past 24 hours—was diagnosed with a virus he claimed was nearly defeated, a study (pdf) by researchers at Cornell University found that Trump is the "single largest driver" of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic, as the New York Times reported Wednesday.

On Friday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified before the select subcommittee in a hearing on the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. Watch below:


Select Subcommittee Hearing with HHS Secretary Alex Azar www.youtube.com

President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?