Tuesday, September 15, 2020
September 14, 2020 at 8:20 p.m. EDT
“Since joining the administration my family and I have been continually threatened and in and out of criminal court dealing with harassment prosecutions,” Caputo said in a statement. “This weighs heavily on us and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”
Caputo’s comments come as Trump administration officials say they are seeking to build public support for a coronavirus vaccine but have faced a series of disappointing setbacks, most recently the release of audio in which the president admitted that he deliberately downplayed the virus when he knew it was “deadly.”
Trump installed Caputo in April after weighing whether to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar over a series of damaging stories about Trump’s handling of the pandemic, according to three current and former White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe behind-the-scenes discussions. Allies persuaded Trump to not make such a change amid a pandemic, but instead to bring in Caputo, the officials said. (Trump denied reports that he was considering firing Azar at the time.)
Almost immediately, Caputo began exerting control over officials’ public appearances and statements; by early summer, he had extended that scrutiny to scientists. He and an adviser have faced mounting criticism in recent days for interfering with the work of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seeking to change, delay or kill weekly scientific reports they thought undermined Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control. Caputo has also sought to wield influence over when government scientists appear on television, telling officials that he approves such bookings.
Caputo is viewed as a Trump loyalist, but several White House officials said his behavior has been erratic and some of his ideas have been regarded as extreme. For example, he proposed the federal government spend millions of dollars on a professionally directed and produced documentary about the administration’s race to develop vaccines that he wanted to air at film festivals, said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The idea was rejected by White House communications aides.
In the Facebook video, Caputo criticizes government career scientists, the media and Democrats, the Times reported and Caputo confirmed. He said he was under attack by the media and that his “mental health has definitely failed."
“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Caputo said in the video, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.”
Caputo also said the CDC, which is part of HHS, had a “resistance unit” that aimed to undermine Trump. Without offering any evidence, he also accused scientists “deep in the bowels of the CDC” of giving up on science and becoming “political animals.”
They “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” he said in the video. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”
He also predicted that Trump would win the election but that Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, would refuse to concede. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he warned in the video. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get."