The more we learn about what went on behind the scenes during the critical early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the more Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar had risen as a rare and unlikely hero pushing the White House for an early response.
Speaking truth to strength has its rate in the Trump administration. The onetime Eli Lilly executive was wailed down by White House aide-de-camps as “alarmist” and sidelined by Jared Kushner, Mike Pence and others willing to give the president a more rosy attitude. And on Sunday night, Trump flogged out at Azar by identify for the first time, following a New York Times report that Azar had” instantly advised Mr. Trump of the feasibility of establishing a pandemic during a call on Jan. 30, the second warning he delivered to the president about the virus in 2 weeks .”
After complaining about ” mayhem” at the White House, Azar &# x27; s future is uncertain but his attempts to get top officials and President Trump to pay attention to the coming pandemic should not be lost in the shadow of battle as Trump recasts biography in his advantage.
Almost every Democrat voted against Azar’s confirmation as state secretary in January 2018. As the president of the U.S. schism of Eli Lilly, he had approved the tripling of the price of insulin and spoken out against the Affordable Care Act, vowing the free market should direct health care.
Democrats acquired he would be a shill for the pharmaceutical industry, but a Senate Democratic aide told the Daily Beast those early expectations that Azar would be an” ideological hack” proved wrong:” He’s an adult in the chamber. He’s not showy. He’s a total nerd, improbably academic in the way he reputes through these things .” Another Democratic aide said,” Within our world, he’s one of the few good performers .”
As the Washington Post reported in its late dive into the administration’s response during the course of its first 70 dates of the coronavirus pandemic( which this row depicts heavily from ), Azar first learned from the director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, in a phone call on or about Jan. 1 that an uncharted respiratory illness was nauseating beings in Wuhan.
Azar had his chief of staff notify the National Security Council and by Jan. 7 had begun convening a task force that included Redfield and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the now famous infectious disease scientist from the NIH. By mid-January, they had begun drafting contingency plans to enforce the Defense Production Act.
Nobody had yet briefed President Trump on what was looking more and more like a pandemic. That was left to Azar, who phoned the president at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, Jan. 18. According to multiple media reports, before Azar could even brought forward by the virus, Trump was lecturing him for failing to follow through on a full proscription of all vaping flavored concoctions, a topic Trump follows closely.
Azar has an uneasy relationship with Trump, who involves him as “alarmist.” Stylistically, they couldn’t be more different, and Trump doesn’t like bearers of bad news.” He’s happy to suck up to the president once in a while, but he’s not going to change data or tell lies for anybody ,” says a source who worked with Azar in the pharmaceutical industry.” He’s a highly ethical party .”
Azar is familiar with world-wide health threats, having provided at HHS during the outbreak of bird influenza in 2005. This time, he immediately began to sound the alarm bells for a national surveillance system. But that would require a diagnostic test that did not yet exist, and it would cost money the Trump White House didn’t want to expend.
In late January, an excited Azar announced National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, who was out of the country with Trump at Davos. Azar told O’Brien it was ” commotion” at the White House with no one in charge and aides demanding multiple duplicative instructs.
At Davos on Jan. 22, Trump got his first question on the coronavirus. Was he fretted?” No. Not at all ,” he said.” We have it thoroughly under control … It’s one person coming in from China … It’s going to be fine .”
In late January and early February, Azar quarrelled for a multibillion dollar supplemental budget request, but White House aide-de-camps rejected it as too high, and perturbed it would look alarmist. On Feb. 4, while Trump was extraditing his State of the Union address in the House chamber, Azar called Russell Vought, the acting director of the OMB, who told him to submit a proposal, which he did the next day for more than$ 4 billion.
Aides didn’t like Azar going around them, and there was a shouting match in the Situation Room in the White House. As a former top pharmaceutical executive, Azar already had the stature of has become a prickly boss. He viewed his ground and attacked his asking, which the OMB cut approximately in half to $2.5 billion. Daytimes later, Congress voted$ 8 billion to boost the public health response, which “shouldve been” defended Azar but exclusively intensified the hostility toward him in the White House.
Azar made some bad speculations. He are dependent upon certainties from the CDC’s Redfield about a workable test, which didn’t materialize. It wasn’t until Feb. 29 that the FDA elevated administrative regulations to allow business labs to proceed with testing. Valuable time was lost.
And for whatever reason, Azar didn’t get through to Trump.
From the time of their first phone call on Jan. 18, when Azar told him about the virus, Trump supported eight rallyings with thousands of people assembled, and played golf six meters.
Azar led the administration’s response until Trump sounded Pence on Feb. 26. Azar has been sidelined ever since, with his agency disempowered in decision-making and his rendition pilloried by a range of White House officials.
Aides who report to the president’s son-in-law have hijacked space on the seventh floor of the HHS building, and CMS administrator Seema Verma, whose busines reports to Azar, has made his neighbourhood at the White House coronavirus task force briefings. Trump likes her, and she’s one of Pence’s parties from Indiana, connections that Azar can’t match in a White House that runs on personality and love.
For now, Azar is keeping his head down and trying to coordinate the push to find a inoculation. He imagines the pharmaceutical industry is best positioned to deliver that inoculation, and the hasten is on. People who know him say he believes in his mission even if the president doesn’t believe in him.