Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway sent 'dictates' to CDC to downplay COVID severity: ex-Trump officials

Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway sent 'dictates' to CDC to downplay COVID severity: ex-Trump officials
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor and Assistant to President Donald J. Trump, speaks with reporters on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, along the driveway outside the West Wing entrance of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway sent "dictates" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordering the public health agency to downplay the severity of its coronavirus messaging, two former members Trump appointees tell The New York Times.

"Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won," former chief of staff at CDC Kyle McGowan says. McGowan had worked with Tom Price, first in the Georgia Republican Congressman's office, and then at Health and Human Services after Trump appointed him Secretary of the agency. Price left HHS in disgrace.

Conway and Trump, both top advisors to the president, were focused on churches and schools. During the course of the pandemic the CDC first held back guidance it had prepared to help churches re-open safely. The Trump administration rewrote that guidance to allow houses of worship greater freedom, but at a huge cost in American lives. President Trump spent months demanding schools reopen, ignoring CDC guidance, and providing state and local governments few if any tools or financial support to protect students and staff.

McGowan and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, say the White House slowly but surely crushed the CDC, interfering with public announcements or pronouncements, all in the interest of protecting the health of the economy instead of the health of the American people.

In one instance McGowan says he and CDC Director Robert Redfield were forced to alter language on social distancing guidance, after White House budget director Russell Vought told them specifics on spacing requirements would be too onerous for businesses. In the end, no specifics on social distancing requirements were provided.

McGowan and Campbell say they "mediated between Dr. Redfield and agency scientists when the White House's requests and dictates would arrive: edits from Mr. Vought and Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser, on choirs and communion in faith communities, or suggestions from Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and aide, on schools."

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