House panel says CDC director Robert Redfield demanded the deletion of an email showing interference in Covid-19 guidance

trump visit cdc
US President Donald Trump alongside US Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar (at left), and CDC Director Robert Redfield (at right) during a tour of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 6, 2020.

  • CDC Robert Redfield allegedly ordered subordinates to delete an email from a senior health official in the Trump administration requesting changes to a major report on how COVID-19 impacts children.
  • Charlotte Kent, editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, told congressional investigators on Monday that she was instructed her to delete HHS staffer Paul Alexander’s email in August.
  • Rep. James Clyburn, who leads the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, wrote in a letter to Trump administration health officials that the email deletion may be evidence of a cover-up of political interference. 
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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, allegedly ordered subordinates to delete an email from a senior health official in the Trump administration requesting changes to a major report on how COVID-19 impacts children.

Charlotte Kent, editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, told congressional investigators on Monday that, at Redfield’s direction, a colleague at the CDC instructed her to delete HHS staffer Paul Alexander’s email in August. She was on vacation at the time and told investigators that by the time she’d searched for the email, it had already been deleted. 

Rep. James Clyburn, who leads the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, wrote in a letter to Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that he has “serious” concerns about “what may be deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence that senior political appointees interfered with career officials’ response to the coronavirus crisis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The MMWR was not altered before it was published. But intentionally destroying federal records is a criminal offense that can be punished with prison time. 

In the email, which Clyburn quotes in his letter, Alexander wrote that the CDC’s report on the coronavirus’ impact on children was “very misleading” and aimed to undermine President Donald Trump. 

“This is designed to hurt this President [sic] for their reasons which I am not interested in,” Alexander, a top aide to Azar, wrote in the deleted message. 

Clyburn also alleged in his letter that Trump administration officials improperly delayed the publication of a CDC report on the spread of COVID-19 at a Georgia summer camp until after Redfield testified before Congress on July 31.

A spokesperson for HHS told The Washington Post that Clyburn’s characterization of Kent’s allegations was “irresponsible” and denied her charges. 

“We urge the subcommittee to release the transcript in full, which will show that during her testimony Dr. Kent repeatedly said there was no political interference in the MMWR process,” the spokesperson said. 

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