Trump Admin Email Scandal Erupts Weeks Before Presidency Ends

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Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, has revealed that Charlotte Kent, who edits the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had received an order to delete an email containing evidence of political meddling in the CDC’s operations.

According to Kent, she was informed that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield himself had originally ordered the email deletion. In the original message, Paul Alexander, who was a top adviser to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar at the time, angrily accused the CDC of trying to politically damage Trump with their releases of basic information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexander “was seeking changes in a scientific report on the coronavirus’s risk to children,” The Washington Post summarizes, although the CDC did not change its reporting in the MMWR that Alexander complained about, according to a former official, who said that the report “is where the line was drawn.”

In a Thursday letter to Redfield and Azar, Clyburn expressed “serious concern about what may be deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence that senior political appointees interfered with career officials’ response to the coronavirus crisis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Kent told members of Congress that she discovered the email already deleted when she attempted to look it up. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that a full transcript of Kent’s remarks to members of Congress “will show that during her testimony Dr. Kent repeatedly said there was no political interference in the MMWR process” — but there’s a difference between successful and attempted political interference, the latter of which is what Kent seems to reveal.

In his original email in question, Alexander angrily ranted, in part, as follows:

‘CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school reopening… Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear… This is designed to hurt this Presidnet [sic] for their reasons which I am not interested in.’

Trump himself has echoed the conspiracy theory that public health officials have been conspiring to make him look bad — which is, of course, a frankly bonkers and disturbingly self-obsessed suggestion. In August, Trump claimed on Twitter that 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,” suggesting in the same tweet that the alleged nefarious activity was meant to “delay the answer” for the pandemic until after the election. Separately, he’s insinuated that companies behind COVID-19 vaccine development work intentionally waited until after the election to release promising information. There’s no legitimate evidence for these claims.

As the pandemic has continued to rage in the United States, Trump has seemed more interested in fighting against the election results than trying to conclusively confront the pandemic.