The White House ordered a browbeaten CDC to use COVID-19 to deport migrant children, save a dog
When the history of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is written: “2020 will be perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years,” reports ProPublica in a long, detailed look at how “an agency that eradicated smallpox and polio worldwide in the United States "became" a target of anger, contempt, and even pity.
In the midst of a one-off pandemic, the CDC has been largely neutralized by unprecedented and harmful political interference from a White House determined to prioritize President Trump's message over public health, ProPublica and The Associated Press. CDC Director Robert Redfield was beaten into submission, and world-renowned CDC disease warriors in need of a street fighter got instead "the nicest grandfather you can imagine," a senior health official told ProPublica.
In March, Trump's die-hard immigration tsar Stephen Miller urged the CDC to use its quarantine powers to close the U.S.-Mexico border to all migrants, then had an attorney for the Department of Health and Social Affairs submit a draft proposal to Dr. CDC veteran Martin Cetron send director of global migration and quarantine. "Cetron refused to sign the order," reports ProPublica, angrily telling a colleague: "It is just morally wrong to use an agency that has never been used in this way." When Cetron refused, ProPublica remarks, "Redfield signed the order."
Even before COVID-19, the Trump administration broke longstanding norms and appointed a politically appointed CDC chief of staff. But that commissioner, Kyle McGowan, "became indigenous" and "increasingly protected the CDC's senior scientists," reports ProPublica. "McGowan hit his breaking point when Redfield asked him to stop the deportation of a dog," said Socrates, who was brought home by a Peace Corps volunteer with no proven rabies shot. The volunteer's social media campaign caught the attention of the White House.
As the pandemic raged, "McGowan phoned the General Counsel of HHS and other senior officials for an hour and a half to find out how to make an exception for a dog," reports ProPublica. "All the while, he told colleagues, his mind kept returning to the fact that the same government was using the CDC's quarantine powers to deport thousands of children to the Mexican border." McGowan resigned in August.
The White House has replaced him, the AP reports, with two political activists whose main job is to "keep an eye on Dr. Robert Redfield."
For more information on the CDC's deterioration, see The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and ProPublica.
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