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How Michael Caputo shook healthcare and social services

Wagner was also involved in the agency’s blood plasma breakdown as a treatment for coronavirus, an episode that eventually prompted FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to apologize for his claims, which overestimated the benefits of the treatment. This month, Caputo appointed Wagner to work in the department’s readiness and response agency in an effort to speed up the coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile, at the CDC, he broke off the ongoing feud with the agency by helping install the new head of the agency in June with little notice to the agency’s top management team.

This employee ̵

1; Nina Witkofski, who was previously a communications contractor helping to organize trips to Verma – became acting director of the CDC in August. Witkofski did not respond to a request for comment on his work or communication with Caputo.

But Caputo’s assistant, which attracted the most controversy, was Paul Alexander, an unpaid, part-time professor at McMaster University. Alexander, whose departure was briefly announced by HHS along with Caputo’s medical leave, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brought in as Caputo’s research associate in a newly created role this spring, Alexander spent months guided by government scientists and tried to edit scientific bulletins written by the Centers for Disease Control, the agency’s famous weekly reports on morbidity and mortality. for the first time on Friday POLITICO.

In his emails, Alexander attacked CDC scientists for trying to “hurt the president” by distorting their ballots and trying to undermine Trump’s optimistic message about the pandemic. Behavior was a habit for Alexander: last week he tried to stop infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci from discussing the risks of coronavirus in children, and the Washington Post reported in July on Alexander’s earlier efforts to punish CDC staff.

But Alexander had a powerful advocate, Caputo, who shared his adviser’s belief that a “deep state” in government was working to harm Trump before the election.

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Following the POLITICO report on Friday, Caputo found himself in a new position: instead of correcting history, Caputo was history.

Prominent public health experts condemned his team’s efforts to change carefully scrutinized, strictly non-partisan scientific texts.

MMWRs are a “must-read, especially during a pandemic,” writes Rich Besser, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting head of the CDC at Scientific American. “Interfering, delaying or politicizing these reports would be a form of scientific blasphemy, as well as a breach of public confidence that could undermine the nation’s efforts to combat the coronavirus.”

HHS career civil servants, meanwhile, were horrified that their work could be distorted by a career political adviser seeking to protect the president.

Even some of Trump’s appointees, who privately admired Caputo’s style – praising his efforts to counter the administration’s critics and attack the media – felt he had gone too far in editing scientific papers.

“The problem with this guy is that he doesn’t know where the red line is,” said a senior official who believes some of Caputo’s hard-hitting tactics are justified. “Or maybe he sees the red line and is like a bull charging it.”

Besieged by critics and subjected to personal health concerns, Caputo released a provocative tone in a live video on Facebook, which he shared with friends on Sunday night, first reported by The New York Times.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Caputo said in the video. “Do you know why? Because the president of the United States supports me.”

But the video entered conspiratorial thinking – as Caputo exposed theories of “hit squads” organized by Trump’s opponents and called on police to stockpile ammunition in the event of a disputed election – and included extended reefs about Caputo’s disappointments in Washington County. the best speaker also made more than a dozen attacks on scientists whose work he was nominally hired to promote.

“These scientists from the Centers for Disease Control, some of them have rotted from the brain out,” Caputo said. “They work against Donald Trump as scientists.”

“There are scientists working for this government who don’t want America to recover,” Caputo later said in a nearly 30-minute video. “It’s only after Joe Biden is president. That’s a fact. I know it because I heard it … all these people are going to hell.”

On Monday, the chamber’s supervisory subcommittee launched an investigation into Caputo’s efforts to intervene in CDC reports, asking him, Alexander and other HHS officials to appear for interviews next week.

Senior Democrats also called for Caputo to step down, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called on Hazard himself to resign as he allowed Caputo and his team to pressure government scientists, among other critics. Meanwhile, many media outlets became acquainted with Caputo’s role in the HHS, including the newspaper in his hometown, which found that he was missing.

“Caputo’s ideas for managing a health crisis need to be grazed,” Buffalo News wrote in an editorial on Tuesday, urging him to resign immediately.

Amid the firestorm, Caputo assessed a potential deviation from the HHS, consulting with Hazard and other senior officials on Tuesday about the logistics of medical leave, said four people close to the situation. Some White House officials have also begun to conclude that Caputo is distracted and must leave, whether on medical leave or otherwise.

McMaster University is also seeking to distance itself from Alexander, with a spokesman saying he is not currently teaching at the university, nor has he been paid as a part-time assistant.

By Wednesday afternoon, the situation had become untenable and HHS announced that Caputo was accepting a 60-day medical leave. The speaker’s appearance potentially removes one of Trump’s most loyal allies in government at a particularly sensitive time: the election is in 48 days.

HHS also said Alexander was leaving the department, although he did not provide further details.

Caputo himself announced his departure as a necessary move for his health, in a statement praising Fauci, saying he had consulted with Trump and Hazard about his next steps and that he should hold screenings for a recently discovered lymphatic problem.

“[E]very much the American struggle against COVID – in every city in every country in the country – has been under enormous pressure. “I’m just one of them,” Caputo said. I learned so much in friendship with the doctors from the Coronavirus Presidential Task Force. “

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