The CDC director allegedly ordered the deletion of emails to interfere with coronavirus guidance, the chairman of the House panel says

The report has not been modified or withdrawn. But Clyburn, chairman of the House Select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, quoted an interview three days ago with the editor of the CDC’s most authoritative publication, the Weekly report on morbidity and mortality, known as MMWR. Charlotte Kent, editor-in-chief of that report, told investigators that while on vacation in August, she received instructions to delete the email from Paul Alexander, a senior adviser to Azar.

When Kent looked for the email, it had already been deleted, she said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by Clyburn. When she inquired who had ordered the deletion, she was told that Redfield’s instructions had come through the chain of command.

“I’ve heard of [REDACTED]who, as I understand, was led by Dr. [Michael F.] Iademarco, who was led by Dr. Redfield heard to delete it, ”Kent told investigators, according to the protocol. Iademarco is the director of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services at the CDC.

In a statement posted on Thursday afternoon through HHS, Redfield said, “Regarding the email in question, I have directed CDC staff to Dr. Ignoring Alexander’s comments. As I testified before the Congress, I am fully committed to maintaining the independence of the MMWR and stand by this statement. “

Senior subcommittee member Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) Issued a statement denying Clyburn’s charges. Scalise said the letter “drastically misrepresents Dr. Kent’s interview,” claiming that Democrats on the panel “continue to search for illusory evidence” of the disability by Trump administration officials.

Clyburn’s letter also alleged that HHS prevented other senior CDC officials from testifying before the committee this week and delayed the delivery of the requested documents for many months.

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Clyburn also accused of suspending a copy of the MMWR about a coronavirus outbreak at a Georgia summer camp for two days to allow Redfield to testify to the Clyburn Committee on July 31.

An HHS spokesperson said the characterization of the conversation with Dr. Kent through the subcommittee is irresponsible. We urge the subcommittee to publish the minutes in full, which will show that Dr. Kent repeatedly said during her testimony that there was no political interference in the MMWR process.

“During the interview referred to in the letter, a subcommittee member decided to violate basic lawyer and client privilege practices that protect the interests of the department, and most importantly the witnesses. While HHS is diligent in responding to the numerous requests made by the selected subcommittee, the subcommittee is not operating in good faith. “

Efforts by Alexander and his manager at HHS, Michael Caputo, CDC advice to the public to change, delay and block The pandemic was reported this summer at a time of intense fighting between the Trump administration seeking to reopen the country and the CDC’s career scientists.

In the end, the language in the MMWR was not changed, nor was the report abolished, according to a former CDC official with specific knowledge of the event, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal deliberations.

“That didn’t happen,” said the former official. Politicians from HHS and the White House pressured the CDC to change the guidelines and press releases, but “the line has been drawn at the MMWR”.

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Alexander in particular insisted that CDC scientists report information to harm the administration’s efforts. According to Clyburn, the August 8 email that Redfield allegedly wanted to delete read in part: “CDC has attempted to report that the children were spreading after the clash, which would affect the school reopening. . . . Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Your goal is clear. . . . This is said to violate this Presidnet [sic] for reasons that don’t interest me. “

The committee said it would interview Redfield by December 17 and would like to continue speaking with the four other CDC officials: Anne Schuchat, assistant chief executive officer; Nina Witkofsky, acting Chief of Staff; Trey Moeller, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff; and Kate Galatas, assistant director of communications.

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