GAO investigating alleged Trump political influence over CDC, FDA

Trump admits to downplaying coronavirus threat in new Bob Woodward book

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will open an investigation into President Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to politically influence the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We expect the work will start in January, as staff who cover those issues become available,” Charles Young, a GAO spokesman, told USA TODAY. The GAO, an independent government watchdog agency, accepted a Senate request Monday to examine potential political interference and “determine whether this interference has violated the agencies' scientific integrity and communication policies.”

Last week, The Associated Press reported the Trump White House has installed two political operatives at the CDC to try to control the information it releases about the coronavirus pandemic. The two appointees — Acting Chief of Staff Nina Witkofsky and her deputy Chester “Trey” Moeller — have no public health background, but instead, according to the AP, have been tasked with keeping an eye on Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency director, as well as scientists.

ExploreWhite House puts ‘politicals’ at CDC to try to control info

The AP quoted a half-dozen anonymous CDC and administration officials.

A day after claiming that the American people are tired of listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump insisted Tuesday that he gets along with the nation’s top infectious disease specialist while also complaining the doctor who has clashed with him at times about the coronavirus is not a “team player.”

Fauci was ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump got COVID-19

Trump’s strained relationship with Fauci has political overtones as the president defends his record on the coronavirus just two weeks before Election Day. Polls show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states, but Trump says he’s confident of victory.

“He’s a nice guy,” Trump said of Fauci in a telephone interview with “Fox & Friends” from the White House. “The only thing I say is he’s a little bit sometimes not a team player,” he added, denying the two were “at odds.”

Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his government’s own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the United States, remains a central issue to voters.

ExploreTrump: People tired of COVID, ‘hearing Fauci and all these idiots’

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said of the government’s top infectious disease expert. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.”

Trump’s rejection of scientific advice on the pandemic has already drawn bipartisan condemnation.

Biden was off the campaign trail Monday, but his campaign praised Fauci and criticized Trump for “reckless and negligent leadership” that “threatens to put more lives at risk.”

“Trump’s closing message in the final days of the 2020 race is to publicly mock Joe Biden for trusting science and to call Dr. Fauci, the leading public health official on COVID-19, a ‘disaster’ and other public health officials ‘idiots,’” the Biden campaign said.

The GAO move comes after Democratic Sens. Patty Murray, Gary Peters and Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter asking the agency to “determine whether the CDC and FDA’s scientific integrity and communications policies have been violated” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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