Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA

Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA
© Greg Nash

An independent government watchdog will investigate the Trump administration's alleged political interference with public health agencies, Democratic senators announced Monday.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it had accepted a request from Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Biden says US will have enough vaccine for all adults by end of May | Biden calls on all states to vaccinate teachers by the end of March | Texas, Mississippi lift mask mandates Biden picks for financial agencies offer preview of regulatory agenda Becerra tells Warren he will do 'thorough review' of executive actions on drug prices MORE (Mass.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Senate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden Hallie Jackson to share her experience as a 'pandemic mom' in new COVID-19 anniversary series MORE (Wash.) and Gary PetersGary PetersDeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel Top cops deflect blame over Capitol attack Law enforcement officials lay out evidence Capitol riot was 'coordinated' attack MORE (Mich.) to review whether the scientific integrity and communications policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been violated, and "whether those policies are being implemented as intended to assure scientific integrity throughout the agency."

The senators requested the investigation earlier this month, following numerous reports of political meddling in the COVID-19 response at both CDC and FDA. 


"The CDC and FDA’s independence as scientific agencies is crucial to safeguarding the public health and saving lives. These agencies must be able to develop, review, and disseminate public health data, guidelines, and other information that are based on science, facts, and medical principles—and not the political imperatives and moods of a president and his advisors," the Democrats said in their request. 

Political officials have reportedly pressured agency scientists to revise, remove or delay key CDC recommendations, and have allegedly interfered in the publication of agency research reports viewed as undermining President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE’s message that the pandemic is under control.

The administration also reportedly tried to block the FDA from issuing more stringent guidance for manufacturers of a potential coronavirus vaccine. Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine would be ready for distribution in time for Election Day, despite public comments from health officials, drug manufacturers and outside experts.  

Trump has also publicly pressured CDC and FDA officials in the past. The president called for the emergency authorization of the use of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, despite scant evidence. The agency eventually revoked the authorization. 

In August, on the eve of the Republican National Convention, FDA issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19.

"The GAO's decision to conduct an independent audit is a good first step towards making sure that guidance coming from federal agencies is based on science and facts, not on the Trump Administration's political agenda or the President's whims," the senators said in a statement. 

GAO said the investigation is expected to take about three months.