Trump administration facing new investigation over political interference at the CDC and FDA
Donald Trump (Photo: Screen capture)

The Government Accountability Office has agreed to "conduct an investigation of the Trump Administration's political interference at the CDC and FDA, and to determine whether this interference has violated the agencies' scientific integrity and communication policies."

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Patty Murray requested the review on Oct. 8.

"The CDC and FDA's independence as scientific agencies is crucial to safeguarding the public health and saving lives," the Senators wrote. "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. But the Trump Administration has reportedly pressured the CDC and FDA throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, repeatedly applying political pressure and imposing orders on career scientists that undermine the agencies' credibility and independence."

The lawmakers' request follows reports of persistent and widespread political interference at both agencies in the COVID-19 response, which have resulted in public confusion and distrust of important health information necessary to help contain the spread of the virus. After reports broke that FDA was close to issuing strict guidance for authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, for instance, Trump said that the plan "sounds like a political move, while he continued to suggest the agency would green light a vaccine by Election Day. The guidance was ultimately released, but only after news broke of the White House's attempts to block it.

Other reports show the White House pressured the CDC into downplaying risks associated with children returning to in-person learning at schools and HHS political appointees reviewed and may have altered or delayed weekly scientific reports issued by CDC about the pandemic. HHS political appointees and the White House Coronavirus Task Force also reportedly published guidance to the CDC's website, without approval from the CDC, recommending that asymptomatic individuals do not need to be tested for COVID-19, even after exposure to someone with COVID-19. This guidance was then reversed.

Last week, the lawmakers also led 27 of their Senate colleagues calling for the HHS inspector general to investigate these serious reports of political interference with the scientific processes at HHS during the COVID-19 response.