A virologist responsible for the White House’s response to the Covid pandemic under former president Donald Trump was reassigned to investigate purported cases of “voter fraud” last winter, emails obtained by the US Congress show.
Pathologist Steven Hatfill, who advised the then-White House trade director Peter Navarro, repeatedly complained that “election stuff” was taking precedence over the plan to contain the coronavirus crisis.
“Now with the elections so close, Covid is taking a back seat, yet the disease is rearing it[s] ugly head again,” Dr Hatfill said in emails in October 2020. These emails were obtained by the House select subcommittee investigating Trump administration’s coronavirus response and were accessed by The Washington Post.
Subsequent emails showed a shift in Dr Hatfill’s own priorities as his focus moved to the former president’s election challenges.
In one email, he detailed his travel plans to Arizona following a close election in the state with 11 electoral votes.
In yet another email following the electoral win of Mr Biden, Dr Hatfill said that he personally “shifted over to the election fraud investigation in November.” Since losing the November 2020 elections, Mr Trump and many of his supporters alleged poll fraud but all their legal challenges have failed.
A day before the 6 January Capitol riots, when a colleague at George Washington University wrote to him asking why he was not “fixing the virus”, the virologist said: “Because the election thing got out of control. I go where my team goes.”
Dr Hatfill was among the first to sound an alarm about the pandemic and show his skepticism regarding the White House’s response to it.
In February 2020, he wrote to Mr Navarro that “[i]n truth we do not have a clue how many are infected in the USA”, adding that the first major wave of infections would begin in the US “within the next 7 days.” These emails were released earlier this month.
He had also raised concerns about the Centre for Disease Control’s Covid-19 response, for distributing “ineffective test kits for coronavirus diagnosis”, which he believed limited the ability to screen individuals for the infection.
In March 2020, Dr Hatfill warned against the shortage of medical ventilators, as he urged the White House to “ensure an adequate supply” as quickly as possible.
In September 2020, unsatisfied with the Covid-19 response, Dr Hatfill wrote to the then-chief of staff Mark Meadows that the president has been “grossly misadvised by Covid Task Force on the proper pandemic response”.
Defending his subsequent involvement in the Trump campaign, Dr Hatfill said it was galvanised by his own dissatisfaction with the administration’s response to the pandemic.
“From my perspective as a doctor, I was, and continue to be, frustrated with public health being treated as a political football,” he told The Washington Post.
“Moreover, I was disgusted with the destruction of the National Pandemic Plan at the hands of conflicted petty bureaucrats; a plan that focused on early treatment and community outreach, rather than experimental vaccines and panic.”
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