Azar downplays chance Trump will appoint coronavirus czar
A top Trump health official said Wednesday he does not expect the White House to name a czar to lead the administration’s coronavirus response.
Alex Azar, who is leading the coronavirus response as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday the current arrangement is working “extremely well.”
“I don’t anticipate one,” Azar said, in response to questioning from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) about whether Trump would name a czar.
“This is working extremely well. If it doesn’t or there’s a need for a change … that would be for the president to decide.”
An administration official separately downplayed talk that the White House was considering appointing a czar, while White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere disputed the claim in a tweet.
This is not true! The President took decisive action by creating the Coronavirus Virus Task Force a month ago and is pleased with the leadership of @SecAzar to protect the public health. https://t.co/ip8npLDdTm
— Judd Deere (@JuddPDeere45) February 26, 2020
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have called for Trump to re-establish the global health security team on the National Security Council, which was dismantled by former national security adviser John Bolton.
They say the administration should designate a public health expert to lead the response, and not leave it to Azar, who also has to run one of the government’s largest agencies.
But Azar downplayed that possibility Tuesday, saying he doesn’t “put much stock in anonymous sources in Politico,” referencing a story the outlet had written.
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that Azar and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were doing a “great job with respect to the coronavirus.”
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he would hold a “news conference” on the topic with health officials at the White House at 6 p.m. Azar told lawmakers he would brief Trump on the response at 6 p.m. at an event that would be open press. The White House has not issued updated guidance on the president’s schedule.
Brett Samuels contributed.