Like a Hand Grasping: Trump Appointees Describe Crushing the CDC

“What’s not legitimate is putting science aside,” he said.

Often, Mr. McGowan and Ms. Campbell mediated between Dr. Redfield and the agency’s scientists when the White House requests and lecture notes came in: Edits of Mr. Vought and Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser, on choirs and community in faith communities, or suggestions from Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and assistant, about schools.

“Every time science clashed with news coverage, media coverage won,” said Mr. McGowan.

Episodes of interference sometimes turned absurd, they said. In the spring, the CDC published an app that allowed Americans to screen themselves for symptoms of Covid-19. But the Trump administration decided to work with Apple to develop a similar tool. White House officials then demanded that the CDC delete his app from its website, Mr McGowan said.

Ms. Campbell said that at the start of the pandemic, she was confident that the agency had access to the best scientists in the world, “just as in the past.”

“What was so different, however, was the political commitment, not just from HHS, but ultimately from the White House, which in so many ways hindered what our scientists could do,” she said.

Top officials of the CDC devised temporary solutions. Instead of posting new guidelines for schools and election officials in the spring, they published “updates” to previous guidelines that skipped Washington’s formal assessment. That prompted Washington officials to revise updates.

Brian Morgenstern, a White House spokesman, said that “all proposed guidelines and regulations with potentially profound implications for our economy, society and constitutional freedoms are appropriately consulted by all stakeholders, including task force physicians, other experts and board leaders. “

A CDC spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. McGowan and Mrs. Campbell both attended the University of Georgia and saw their CDC positions as homecoming. Mr. McGowan said the two institutions he most revered during his childhood in Georgia were the CDC and Coca-Cola.