SOS Political Interference Tracker

Senator Patty Murray
12 min readOct 11, 2020


This tracker compiles the many reports of the Trump Administration interfering with the scientific work of experts at the nation’s public health agencies for President Trump’s own political benefit.

Any one of these examples of political pressure would be alarming on their own, but together they paint a clear pattern of interference that is downright terrifying. We can’t just expect that the Trump Administration will stop its political interference on its own. Congress has to act to make it stop.

The Science and Transparency Over Politics Act, or the STOP Act, is a much-needed first step to put an end to this Administration’s political meddling. It would create a task force to conduct a thorough investigation into political interference in our public health agencies. The reports from this task force would be released to committees of jurisdiction, and the task force would have full discretion to release any information that it deems is in the public interest and may be important to public safety.

Politico reports Ron Sanders, a top official at the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, resigned in protest over an executive order that would make it easier for the Trump Administration to remove career civil servants — like top scientists at the nation’s public health agencies. The resignation letter from Sanders reads, “[I]t is clear that its stated purpose notwithstanding, the Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump Administration officials offered to give Santa performers priority access to COVID-19 vaccines in exchange for their help with an effort promoting vaccines. The proposal was scrapped amid mounting scrutiny of the Administration’s planned campaign.

The Washington Post reports that the Trump Administration tried to pressure CDC officials into signing a statement saying that using hotels to detain migrant children was the best way to protect them from COVID-19 — a statement unsupported by scientific fact. CDC officials reportedly refused.

Politico reports that Secretary Azar is considering removing FDA Commissioner Hahn after recent efforts by the agency to resist the Trump Administration’s political interference in science-based decisions.

Additional reporting from the New York Times reveals that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Adviser Jared Kushner, and President Trump himself all called FDA Commissioner Hahn personally to pressure him to rush the decision to greenlight COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The Wall Street Journal reports the White House made line-by-line edits to official CDC health guidance and pressed CDC Director Redfield to declare houses of worship essential.

Politico reports the FDA has been under political pressure from the Trump Administration to relabel FDA authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use a “pre-licensure.”

The New York Times reports that the White House overruled CDC experts and blocked a requirement that masks be worn on public transportation.

The Washington Post reports that President Trump and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been pressuring the FDA to speed up its review of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Former BARDA head, Dr. Rick Bright resigns from NIH. He wrote in the Washington Post that the Administration has jeopardized public health and safety and politicized the pandemic response, and that he was leaving because he had been effectively barred from working to fight the pandemic.

President Trump calls new FDA guidance for issuing an emergency use authorization for vaccines, a “political hit job.” According to the New York Times the White House had initially blocked FDA from releasing the guidelines over political concerns.

Politico reports that the CDC edited a scientific report on kids and COVID-19 following a request from a Trump Administration official.

AP reports that CDC was ordered by Vice President Pence to use its authority to close the U.S. borders, after the agency’s experts refused to do so.

The New York Times reports that the CDC silently changed its guidance on voting to remove language about mail-in voting being safer than in-person voting, and to wrongly claim mail-in voting can make it more difficult for voters with disabilities to exercise their right to vote.

Axios reports that CDC Director Robert Redfield was overruled by VP Pence when he pushed to extend the “no-sail order” through February 2021 due to COVID-19’s severity and its ability to spread on cruises. This is after reports in April that VP Pence forced the CDC to shorten its original “no-sail” order.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Administration pressured the CDC to issue guidance that was favorable for opening up schools.

ABC News reports that a CDC scientist claims a study on masks was “slow-walked” until President Trump wore one.

MSNBC reports that Dr. Redfield personally requested changes to an Epi-Aid report to soften safety recommendations for a meatpacking plant.

After the Washington Post reported that FDA was planning to issue guidance with scientific criteria for authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, President Trump tried to undermine the guidance and said he may block it.

The New York Times reports that Secretary Azar has barred the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from signing any new rules without his approval.

The New York Times and Washington Post report further on how Trump Administration political appointees tried to silence Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) experts.

Politico expands on previous reporting to note that Secretary Azar overruled the head of the FDA when Azar moved to strip FDA of its ability to regulate lab developed tests, including COVID-19 tests, allowing unreliable tests to flood the market.

The New York Times reports that the spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services has promoted false conspiracy theories about the work of experts and scientists at the nation’s public health agencies.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Administration pressured officials at the FDA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to authorize convalescent plasma therapy before FDA’s review of its safety and effectiveness was complete.

Politico reports that politically appointed Trump Administration officials demanded oversight of reports from CDC experts, and have worked to edit and append findings from CDC experts in its flagship scientific publication, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Politico reports that a Trump Administration appointee was attempting to dictate talking points to NIH officials.

CNN reports that the CDC was pressured by the Trump Administration to alter its testing guidance to be more restrictive. This guidance was reversed after an outcry from public health experts.

President Trump tweets accusing the FDA of holding back a vaccine.

Buzzfeed reports that a Trump Administration official and Dr. Slaoui, director of Operation Warp Speed, claim that calls for transparency are meant to slow a vaccine.

The New York Times reports that the White House ordered the CDC to stop collecting data on COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, instead filtering the data through a third-party contractor at HHS.

The Washington Post reports that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is leading a Trump administration effort to demand FDA grant a new EUA for hydroxychloroquine. FDA rejects the EUA request on August 10.

The Washington Post reports that senior HHS officials accused the CDC of “undermining the President” when it released the latest information on pregnant women.

AP reports that the White House blocked the publication of a report on reopening the country. It was eventually published after the White House made substantive changes.

The New York Times reports the head of BARDA claims he was removed from his position for insisting unproven COVID-19 promoted by President Trump be scientifically vetted.

After President Trump tweeted about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19, the FDA issued an emergency authorization for its use — a move that was largely criticized by former FDA leaders due to its lack of evidence. The EUA was eventually revoked.

AP reports that the White House allegedly overruled CDC officials who “wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus.”

The New York Times reports that in February, President Trump called Sec. Azar frustrated by CDC expert Dr. Nancy Messonnier warning the public about the likelihood of the pandemic seriously disrupting everyday life.

Last updated 10/09/2020