Story at a glance

  • Former science adviser Paul Alexander allegedly asked then-White House adviser Scott Atlas to assist him in disputing findings of a report on COVID-19-related deaths among young Americans.
  • “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 wrote.
  • In a separate email, Alexander wrote to the then HHS secretary’s speech writer that it would take a big push to convince the public that it was safe to re-engage amid likely spikes in cases.
  • “We have to now ‘unscare’ people while as we reopen, we will see blips and spikes in cases and deaths,” Alexander wrote.

Former Trump administration appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services privately boasted about their efforts to project a more favorable image of Trump’s messaging on COVID-19 while simultaneously acting to subvert Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials’ warnings about the deadly pandemic. 

Emails obtained by The Washington Post show the degree to which former officials bragged to their colleagues about their successes against CDC. 

Paul Alexander, then an administration science advisor, wrote in a message on Sept. 9, 2020 to former HHS affairs chief Michael Caputo, that he had twice successfully convinced CDC officials to change language in their reports, according to the Post. Alexander referred to one of the attempts as “small victory but a victory nonetheless,” in one of the emails obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.


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Alexander then allegedly asked then-White House adviser Scott Atlas to assist him in disputing findings of a report on COVID-19-related deaths among young Americans. Alexander told Atlas he viewed the upcoming report as an attempt to influence Trump’s chances at re-election, the Post reported. 

“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 wrote. 

Caputo, in another email, expressed a desire to fulfill Trump’s push to convince the public of the benefits of reopening the country by addressing the potential negative outcomes by staying closed. 

“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.

“You need to take ownership of these numbers. This is singularly important to what you and I want to achieve,” Caputo wrote in a follow-up message to Alexander. 


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In a separate email, Alexander wrote to the then HHS secretary’s speech writer that it would take a big push to convince the public that it was safe to re-engage amid likely spikes in cases. 

“We have to now ‘unscare’ people while as we reopen, we will see blips and spikes in cases and deaths,” Alexander wrote. 

Neither Alexander or Caputo immediately responded to The Washington Post’s requests for comments. 

Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) wrote to Caputo and Alexander that their actions indicated consistent effort on the part of Trump administration officials to mislead the public and negatively affect the responses to a public health crisis.

“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,” Clyburn wrote. 

Messages obtained by the subcommittee also show efforts by members of the administration to cast doubt on the credibility of Anthony Fauci. 

“Dr. Fauci has no data, no science to back up what he is saying on school reopen, none … he is scaring the nation wrongfully,” Alexander wrote to 11 HHS officials, according to The Washington Post. 


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Published on Apr 09, 2021