“Yippee!!!”: Emails Show Trump Appointees Celebrating Lying to the Public About COVID-19

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    “Yippee!!!”: Emails Show Trump Appointees Celebrating Lying to the Public About COVID-19

    Because of course they did. 

    In February 2020, Donald Trump took some time away from his busy schedule of watching multiple hours of TV a day and insisting the coronavirus was fake news to have a little chat with journalist Bob Woodward. Naturally, one of the things they discussed was the very scary virus that had gained a foothold in the United States. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said during a February 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu,” he said, repeating for emphasis, “This is deadly stuff.” Of course, at the time, Trump had been actively telling the country that COVID-19 was not at all a big deal, that it wasn’t as bad as the flu, that it would “miraculously” go away on its own by April, and that anyone suggesting otherwise was a liar and a fraud. Then in March, a week after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Trump had another conversation with Woodward, in which he admitted something else: that he had been purposely lying to the public about the highly contagious virus the whole time. “I wanted to always play it down,” he said.

    Given that the literal leader of the free world is on the record copping to lying about COVID-19—which killed 400,000 on his watch—it’s not entirely surprising to learn that his foot soldiers in the federal government did everything they could to mislead the public as well. But it’s still colossally messed up and something that should follow them around for the rest of their careers, hence this important report from The Washington Post:

    Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ reports on the coronavirus to more closely align with then president Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators. The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was attempting to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings, and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

    Then science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to then HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, 2020, touting two examples of where he said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak. Pointing to one change—in which CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about the spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them—Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

    In the same email, Alexander excitedly referenced another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he bragged the agency had made thanks to his demands. Two days later, he asked then White House adviser Scott Atlas—the guy who wanted the U.S. to adopt a “herd immunity” strategy by letting millions get the virus on purpose—to help him discredit a forthcoming CDC report on COVID-19-related deaths among young people. “Can you help me craft an op-ed,” Alexander wrote to Atlas on September 11, claiming the report was “timed for the election” to hurt Trump, as though that was the priority of the scientists at the agency. “Let us advise the President and get permission to preempt this please for it will run for the weekend so we need to blunt the edge as it is misleading.”

    Alexander and other officials also strategized on how to help Trump argue to reopen the economy in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, despite scientists’ warnings about the potential risks.

    “I know the President wants us to enumerate the economic cost of not reopening. We need solid estimates to be able to say something like: 50,000 more cancer deaths! 40,000 more heart attacks! 25,000 more suicides!” Caputo wrote to Alexander on May 16, 2020, in an email obtained by the subcommittee.

    “You need to take ownership of these numbers. This is singularly important to what you and I want to achieve,” Caputo added in a follow-up email, urging Alexander to compile additional data on the consequences of virus-related shutdowns. Atlas, Alexander, and Caputo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Incidentally, neither Alexander nor Caputo were doctors; for his part, Caputo seemingly got his job in the administration by writing wildly racist tweets that likely impressed the president. Of course, that didn’t stop them from demanding that the actual health experts change their guidance to the public.

    For instance, Alexander said he had won changes to the “key opening sentence” of an August report about a coronavirus outbreak at a Georgia summer camp. The draft report’s opening line argued that understanding youth transmission of the coronavirus was “critical for developing guidance for schools and institutes of higher education,” according to Alexander’s email. But that language was removed from the final report and a caveat was inserted to specify that there was “limited data” about spread of the virus among people under the age of 21. The CDC said that the change had been made because of “thoughtful comments” from Alexander and the agency’s leaders.

    The Trump appointee continued to demand more revisions, calling for changes to a September MMWR report that concluded that children who contracted the coronavirus in child-care facilities later transmitted the virus to their family members. “In my view, the parents got it more likely when they picked up the kids and came into contact with the school personnel or teachers as happens with my wife and I when we pick our kids form [sic] school,” Alexander wrote to Caputo on Sept. 13.

    Elsewhere, Alexander emailed Atlas on September 3 proposing an “op-ed on possible damage to children immune systems with lock downs and masks,” writing, “I do think locking down our kids (and healthy adults) and masking them can dampen their functional immune systems.” Scientists, of course, have said there is no evidence whatsoever that wearing masks is harmful to children’s immune systems.

    In a letter to Atlas sent on Friday, Representative James Clyburn, chairman of the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, wrote, “Our investigation has shown that Trump Administration officials engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference in the nation’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, overruling and bullying scientists and making harmful decisions that allowed the virus to spread more rapidly.” The subcommittee has requested additional documents from Alexander, Atlas, and others, and asked Alexander and Atlas to sit for interviews with the subcommittee by May 3. 

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    A Texas Republican has been going around claiming Texas could secede from the United States

    Never mind the fact that that’s…not actually true at all. Per CNN:

    Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West falsely suggested that Texas could secede from the United States and become an independent country, a CNN KFile review of his comments in recent months shows. In radio interviews after the 2020 presidential election, West suggested Texas could vote to again become a republic, as it was before joining the United States in 1845. “This is something that was written into the Texas Constitution,” the former congressman said in one late-December radio broadcast. “Or it was promised to Texas when we became part of the United States of America—that if we voted and decided, we could go back to being our own republic.”

    West’s comments on secession come as he repeatedly and baselessly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and pushed debunked claims of massive voting fraud, including the lie that Dominion Voting Software changed votes. Following President Joe Biden’s election, West has claimed the U.S. is in an “ideological civil war” and agreed with a radio host who suggested that an actual civil war would be “worth it.”

    Which obviously is completely terrifying given the willingness of people like the ones who stormed the Capitol on January 6 to engage in actual violence when things—like the 2020 presidential election—don’t go their way. (As for the claim that Texas can actually secede, CNN’s KFile notes that no, it can’t; there is a resolution asserting that Texas can choose to divide itself into five separate states, but it can’t leave the U.S. and declare independence.)

    Leon Black forgot to mention one thing when he abruptly quit the firm he cofounded last month

    Strange how this didn’t make the press release:

    Leon Black’s surprise exit from the helm of Apollo Global Management last month came just days after several directors on the private-equity giant’s board learned of accusations of sexual harassment against him by a woman he claimed was trying to shake him down over a “consensual affair,” the Post has learned…. Black—who Apollo earlier this year revealed had paid millions to dead pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein following the latter’s 2008 convictions for procuring an underage girl for prostitution—cited his wife’s ailing health and his own health problems for the sudden change in plans.

    Neither Black nor Apollo mentioned at the time that days leading up to the resignation, at least four of Apollo’s 12 board members had become aware of a series of little-noticed but explosive tweets by Güzel Ganieva, a former model who claimed to have been “forced to sign an NDA in 2015” relating to allegations that Black “sexually harassed and abused” her, according to sources close to the situation.

    In a statement to the Post, Black denied the accusations while acknowledging that he was well acquainted with Ganieva. “I foolishly had a consensual affair with Ms. Ganieva that ended more than seven years ago,” he said. “Any allegation of harassment or any other inappropriate behavior towards her is completely fabricated.” Black added that he had “made substantial monetary payments” to Ganieva “based on her threats to go public concerning our relationship, in an attempt to spare my family from public embarrassment.” That, he now believes, amounted to him being “extorted,” and he said he has referred the matter to “the criminal authorities.” (Ganieva did not immediately respond to the Post regarding Black’s extortion allegations.) Black separately paid Epstein $158 million, allegedly for tax advice and estate planning, despite being worth roughly $8 billion and having access to the best lawyers and accountants in the world, while Epstein was a college dropout with no formal training in taxes and estate planning.

    Elsewhere!

    House Ethics Committee opens investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (The Washington Post)

    Amazon Wins Union Election in Setback to Labor Movement (Bloomberg)

    COVID cases overwhelm Michigan health system, Gov. Whitmer urges residents to stay home (CNBC)

    Republicans flock to Florida for donor retreat headlined by Trump (CBS News)

    ADL calls on Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson over racist comments about “replacement” theory (CNN)

    “Matt Gaetz needs to resign,” says GOP rep. Adam Kinzinger (NBC News)

    Pfizer, BioNTech request expanded emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12-15 (Reuters)

    Christie’s is planning to auction a set of nine CryptoPunk NFTs for up to $9 million next month (Insider)

    Biden unveils commission to study possible expansion of Supreme Court (The Washington Post)

    University of Kentucky mistakenly sends 500,000 acceptances (AP)

    Couple accidentally paints over $500,000 artwork (NYP)

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    Published at Fri, 09 Apr 2021 22:35:38 +0000