Slashing at Barr on Twitter Saturday instead of focusing on saving American lives, Trump reminded the nation of one of the truisms about the way he has regarded his allies both in business and politics: everyone is expendable if they do not follow his dictates. No matter how loyal an aide has been — and regardless of how many times they put their own reputation on the line to do Trump’s bidding — the President has shown no compunction about casting them aside as soon he is convinced they are no longer useful as one of his political tools.
He has treated the Justice Department as though it were a fleet of his own personal lawyers, attempting to pressure them into investigating his political enemies and showing a disturbing lack of respect for the department’s historic independence from politics.
Barr, a longtime Trump loyalist who has taken many questionable steps on Trump’s behalf, had already infuriated the President by recently telling the Associated Press that he had not seen any evidence to support Trump’s false assertions about widespread election fraud that would change the results of the election.
Their broken relationship deteriorated further after Trump found out that Barr held to the longtime Justice Department precedent that it should not take overt actions that could affect an election and therefore kept the investigation into Biden’s son under wraps before November 3.
A source familiar with the dynamic between Trump and Barr said recent interactions have shown that Barr won’t be intimidated by Trump.
Trump’s pressure campaigns cloud vaccine news
His frustrations about the pace of the vaccine review process spilled into the open hours before the FDA made its emergency use authorization announcement Friday. CNN reported that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tried to intervene on behalf of the President by pressuring FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn to make the decision by the end of the day, warning that he would be fired if he did not.
Hahn insisted Saturday that political pressure did not affect the process: “Science and data guided the FDA’s decision,” Hahn said during a news conference. He said the representations in the press that he faced a threat that he would be fired if the agency didn’t issue the authorization by a certain date were inaccurate.
But medical experts have warned that even the appearance of a pressure campaign could make Americans more wary about taking the vaccine, because many are already concerned that the process was rushed.
“Dr. Marks and I have been very clear from the beginning that we are going to maintain the integrity of the scientific process. We are going to let our scientists do their job and review and go through the fairness of that review — the gold standard, if you will,” Hahn said, appearing with Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “But we also recognize the urgency of the situation, and so we have said repeatedly we will work as quickly as we can to come to a decision and that’s what we did.”
Pressure on Congress
With shipments moving closer to reality, pressure is building on Congress to approve more money for state and local governments that will be overseeing the process of getting the vaccine where it needs to go once it is received by providers.
Lighting a fire under Congress to get aid to states so they can assist in that distribution process — and begin developing campaigns to fight vaccine skepticism — would be one area where a Trump pressure campaign would be helpful in getting the vaccine distributed more equitably and expeditiously.
Though Trump has boasted about his prowess as a dealmaker, he has been largely absent as he has focused on fruitless legal battles to overturn the presidential election.
Kathleen Sebelius, a former secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Saturday night that the funding for states that is needed to recruit and mobilize a workforce on the ground to administer the vaccine to millions of Americans is “one of the big missing pieces of this effort.”
“The shipping that is being arranged from the Pfizer headquarters in Kalamazoo, (Michigan), to states around the country — and to cold storage locations in those states — is the federal government’s piece of the puzzle,” she said on “The Situation Room.” Beyond that, “the Trump Administration has said to states, ‘You’re kind of on your own. You need to get it from there into people’s arms,'” she said.
Sebelius noted that the federal government has spent about $10 billion through Operation Warp Speed to help develop a safe and effective vaccine. But “they have spent, so far, $240 million — total — on efforts to state and local governments for increased testing and building up this public workforce.”
“States say they need a couple of billion dollars. So part of the congressional package that is so desperately needed is getting these resources,” she said.
“Even this limited early supply is going to be tough. When we get to a massive vaccination, it gets really challenging.”