Dr Deborah Birx, then the White House coronavirus taskforce coordinator, hinted to an Obama-era official shortly before the 2020 election she wanted Donald Trump to lose to Joe Biden.
Andy Slavitt, a former acting chief of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, writes in a new book, according to CNN, that he spoke to Birx “to get a sense for whether, in the event of a strained transition of government, she would help give Biden and his team the best chance to be effective.
“At one point, after a brief pause, she looked me in the eye and said, ‘I hope the election turns out a certain way.’ I had the most important information I needed.”
Slavitt stepped down last week as senior adviser to the Biden pandemic response. His book, Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the US Coronavirus Response, is published on Tuesday.
The book draws on conversations with Trump insiders. Slavitt, who also worked to fix the Affordable Care Act website, spoke to such figures in an informal role.
“Her early optimism was long gone,” Slavitt writes of his meeting with Birx, according to CNN, adding: “At the end of October 2020, she was beyond all of that; she was downright scared.”
Slavitt also writes of conversations with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who led the federal response. Slavitt says Kushner told him some governors “clearly don’t want to succeed” and had “bad incentives to keep blaming us”.
Speaking to the Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal podcast, Slavitt said he had “kind of a front-row seat” to the chaos of the US response, prominently including Scott Atlas, a Stanford medic but not an epidemiologist or infectious diseases specialist and an aggressive champion for Trump in the press.
“I contacted the White House,” he said, “I contacted Jared Kushner, every one of my conversations with Jared Kushner and Deborah Birx, they’re in the book. And you know the job that they had to do was, essentially, at a bare minimum, acknowledge that we have a more serious situation than we have ever had.
“Show a little bit of empathy, lead the country by asking for even a small amount of sacrifice. They didn’t do any of those things and they didn’t plan and put together a competent response and it largely it had to do with the person they all worked for.”
Slavitt told the Daily Beast Birx “did some good things”. He called Atlas “a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster that Donald Trump created”.
Deaths from Covid-19 have slowed dramatically as more Americans are vaccinated and society reopens. But under the shadow of Covid variants, vaccination rates are also slowing and the US is on track to pass 600,000 deaths this week.
Slavitt reportedly writes that Birx, a respected public health official with a history in the fight against Aids before she joined the Trump taskforce, told him she had “no illusions” about the effect on her government career.
Another official who came to mass media prominence as part of the Trump response, Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has continued to serve under Biden. Birx has not.