A former Trump campaign official now a spokesperson for the US Department of Health tried to change key reports on the coronavirus pandemic, in some cases “openly complaining” that “they would undermine the president’s optimistic messages on the outbreak,” according to the internal emails seen by Politico.
The official, Michael Caputo, told the website he was attempting to thwart “further grounds of deep state in the guts” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
The news comes after a Homeland Security Department whistleblower said he was told to stop making Donald Trump “look bad” via reports of Russian election interference.
It also comes as a new book by Bob Woodward detailing the president’s reasoning behind the optimistic messages about the coronavirus outbreak.
“I always wanted to play it down,” Trump told Woodward in March, more than a month after telling him the virus was “deadly stuff.”
“I still like to belittle, because I don’t want to panic.”
Trump’s comments – and Woodward’s decision to keep them for his book – sparked protests. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, 6.4 million people have been infected in the United States and more than 192,000 have died. Other counts put the death toll over 200,000.
Caputo, who became a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services in April, is a Republican consultant who worked on the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016. He has ties to Russia, having worked in the country’s energy industry, and to Roger Stone, a Trump ally whose sentence resulting from the Russia investigation was commuted by the president.
Politico reported that, under Caputo’s direction, the CDC’s weekly morbidity and mortality reports have been subjected to “substantial efforts to align … with Trump’s statements, including the president’s claims that epidemic fears are overrated, or sever relationships altogether. “
“Caputo and his team attempted to add warnings to the CDC findings,” the website says, “including an effort to retroactively change the agency’s reports that they claimed to have erroneously inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have clarify that Americans sick with the virus may have been infected because of their behavior. “
A report that Caputo’s team tried to stop, the website said, concerned hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that Trump and key aides pushed for use in the treatment of Covid-19 but which according to studies may be dangerous. The report was released last week, reportedly after being held for a month because its authors’ political views were up for debate.
In an August email seen by Politico, another politician accused the CDC of writing “hit pieces about the administration” and trying to “hurt the president.”
Caputo told the site: “Buried in this well [CDC] Jobs are sometimes stories that seem to intentionally mislead and undermine the president’s Covid response with what some scientists label as a shoddy scholarship and others call politics disguised as science. “
He also said, “Our intention is to make sure that the evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic – not further grounds for being deep in the bowels of the CDC.”
The “deep state” conspiracy theory, enthusiastically supported by the president and senior aides, argues that there is a permanent government of bureaucrats and intelligence officials to counter Trump’s agenda.
Trump recently said the “deep state” is responsible for the delay in the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of unproven Covid therapies.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump campaign director and White House strategist now on suspicion of fraud, was an early key proponent of the “deep state” theory.
He stated that it is “for crazy cases” and “none of this is true”.