The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Friday released a 46-page report confirming what was readily apparent to most reasonable, informed Americans: The Trump administration made “deliberate efforts” to undermine America’s response to Covid-19 for political purposes.
Most of the documents cited in the committee’s report have already been made public, including ones that show how the administration played down the importance of testing and even prevented public officials from holding briefings to educate the public on the highly contagious disease. New information released Friday, however, further illustrates how public health officials were put in difficult positions by the administration.
In May 2020, for instance, the administration shelved the Centers for Disease Control’s mask guidance for churchgoers, reportedly because the White House feared a backlash from Trump’s religious supporters. In response, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC wrote in an email that he was “very troubled … that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do.”
Dr. Deborah Birx also lamented the influence of “fringe groups” who peddled the dangerous idea of herd immunity.
“These are people who believe that all the curves are predetermined and mitigation is irrelevant — they are a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience,” the administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator wrote to Marc Short, then-chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, in Aug. 2020.
The report also delved into the management of pandemic relief programs, finding some of them were susceptible to fraud. The Farmers-to-Families Food Box Program, it notes, was “used as a partisan tool to secure political advantages” for Trump himself. Under this program, the administration handed out hefty contracts to unqualified distributors with red flags in their applications, partly because USDA personnel didn’t even bother to contact the references listed on their applications. In fact, the recipient of one early contract simply wrote: “I don’t have any.”
The report’s key points include how the Trump White House “instructed CDC career scientists to destroy evidence of political interference,” “pressured the Food and Drug Administration to authorize ineffective coronavirus treatments,” “neglected the pandemic response to focus on the 2020 election and the ‘Big Lie,'” and “used personal email accounts to conduct official business.”
All in all, the report concluded, the Trump administration’s series of actions during this critical time amounted to “one of the worst failures of leadership in American history.”