In another email correspondence, Caputo told Alexander last May: “I know the president wants us to enumerate the economic cost of not reopening. We need solid estimates to be able to say something like: 50,000 more cancer deaths! 40,000 more heart attacks! 25,000 more suicides!”
Caputo added: “You need to take ownership of these numbers. This is singularly important to what you and I want to achieve.”
Caputo, a onetime top official in Trump’s 2016 campaign, has no medical or scientific background. He claimed at the time that his battle against CDC information was a defense against the imagined “deep state” trying to undermine Trump.
His previous work in Russia raised fears about his true motivations. Caputo, who lived in Russia for six years, was an adviser to Boris Yeltsin from 1995 to 1999 and helped him get elected president. He also served as an adviser to a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company Gazprom and reportedly helped shore up Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputation.
Caputo’s Kremlin ties were so concerning that he became a target of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Before he was appointed to his HHS role, Caputo scrubbed nearly his entire Twitter history, which was riddled with graphic, offensive attacks, outlandish conspiracy theories and racist comments about the Chinese.
The strategies to downplay the risks of the pandemic and shore up Trump’s optimistic forecasts continued even as the president knew how serious COVID-19 was, he later told Washington Post editor and author Bob Woodward.
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told the journalist more than a year ago in a quote in Woodward’s book “Rage.” But Trump added in another interview shortly afterward: “I wanted to always play it down.”
“Our investigation has shown that Trump Administration officials engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference in the nation’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, overruling and bullying scientists and making harmful decisions that allowed the virus to spread more rapidly,” Clyburn wrote.
Clyburn has called on Atlas and Alexander to be interviewed by his subcommittee early next month. He is also seeking more emails, noting that messages from officials were sometimes sent from personal accounts.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus