• The White House in­stalls two po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives at the CDC.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

NEW YORK — The Trump White House has in­stalled two po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives at the na­tion’s top pub­lic health agency to try to con­trol the in­for­ma­tion it re­leases about the coron­avirus pan­demic as the ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to paint a pos­i­tive outlook, some­times at odds with the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.

The two ap­pointees as­signed to the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion’s At­lanta head­quar­ters in June have no pub­lic health back­ground. They have in­stead been tasked with keep­ing an eye on Dr. Robert Red­field, the agency di­rec­tor, as well as sci­en­tists, ac­cord­ing to a half- dozen CDC and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss in­ter­nal gov­ern­ment af­fairs.

The ap­point­ments were part of a push to get more “po­lit­i­cals” into the CDC to help con­trol mes­sag­ing af­ter a hand­ful of leaks were “up­set­ting the ap­ple cart,” said an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial.

When the two ap­pointees showed up in At­lanta, their roles were a mys­tery to se­nior CDC staff, the peo­ple said. They had not even been as­signed of­fices. Even­tu­ally one, Nina Witkof­sky, be­came act­ing chief of staff, an in­flu­en­tial role as Dr. Red­field’s right hand. The other, her deputy Ch­ester “Trey” Moeller, also be­gan sit­ting in on sci­en­tific meet­ings, the sources said.

It’s not clear to what ex­tent the two ap­pointees have af­fected the agency’s work, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views with mul­ti­ple CDC of­fi­cials. But con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors are ex­am­in­ing that very ques­tion af­ter ev­i­dence has mounted of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in CDC sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tions, guid­ance doc­u­ments and web post­ings.

The White House de­clined to com­ment. A CDC spokesper­son con­firmed that Ms. Witkof­sky and Mr. Moeller were work­ing at the agency re­port­ing to Dr. Red­field, but did not com­ment fur­ther.

Mr. Moeller said in an email to The AP, “I work for Dr. Red­field who is 100% com­mit­ted to the science and the thou­sands of in­cred­i­bly ded­i­cated em­ploy­ees at the CDC work­ing on be­half of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Dur­ing pre­vi­ous pan­demics such as Ebola or SARS, the CDC was the pub­lic face of the U. S. re­sponse, of­fer­ing sci­en­tif­i­cally driven ad­vice to doc­tors and pa­tients alike. The agency played the same role at the be­gin­ning of the COVID- 19 pan­demic, but stum­bled in Fe­bru­ary when a test for the virus sent to states proved to be flawed.

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