We’re Hurtling Toward … Something

The awfulness is coming faster, and it seems there is more of it.

Let’s just start with Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19 by Dan Diamond at Politico. It begins:

The health department’s politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals.

In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails reviewed by POLITICO and three people familiar with the situation.

This has been going on all summer, it says. The chief culprit is a fellow named Michael Caputo. Josh Marshall:

Michael Caputo is a career Republican political operative with no medical expertise beyond an annual physical. He is best known as being an associate of convicted felon Roger Stone, with his own lengthy history working in Russia and as a suspect in the Russia probe. Trump installed Caputo as the acting director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services in April. We learned yesterday that he demanded and received the right to review and amend the CDC’s weekly mortality and morbidity reports, which are among the canonical public health and scientific reports of the US government, in order to make sure they don’t depart from President Trump’s COVID messaging.

Caputo has also attempted to keep some CDC reports from going public, such as one on the use of hydroxychloroquine. Caputo and his team held the report back for a month while they investigated the author’s political leanings.

Back to Politico:

In one clash, an aide to Caputo berated CDC scientists for attempting to use the reports to “hurt the President” in an Aug. 8 email sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other officials that was widely circulated inside the department and obtained by POLITICO.

“CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration,” appointee Paul Alexander wrote, calling on Redfield to modify two already published reports that Alexander claimed wrongly inflated the risks of coronavirus to children and undermined Trump’s push to reopen schools. “CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening . . . Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear.”

This is ghastly, like something out of a dystopian George Orwell novel.

Alexander also called on Redfield to halt all future MMWR [Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports] reports until the agency modified its years-old publication process so he could personally review the entire report prior to publication, rather than a brief synopsis. Alexander, an assistant professor of health research at McMaster University near Toronto whom Caputo recruited this spring to be his scientific adviser, added that CDC needed to allow him to make line edits — and demanded an “immediate stop” to the reports in the meantime.

Politico says that the scentists fought back at first but are increasingly accepting the political editing of their reports, probably because they figure they don’t have a choice.

In other Orwellian news, this happened:

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned — at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

If you aren’t doing any better at keeping up with this stuff than I am — John Durham is a long-time U.S. Attorney who is leading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Bill Barr got this going in 2019.

Dannehy is a career prosecutor who worked closely with Durham before leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office about a decade ago for a corporate position in the defense industry. Durham persuaded her to return to the justice department and, within weeks, join his team in Washington in the spring of 2019.

Colleagues said Dannehy is not a supporter of President Trump and has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Barr, who appointed Durham, to produce results before the election. They said she has been considering resigning for weeks, conflicted by loyalty to Durham and concern about politics.

Here’s one possible source of the pressure. This is from July 5:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Monday said it was “SAD” that Attorney General William Barr might wait until after Election Day to initiate prosecutions related to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s ongoing probe into FBI and CIA misconduct.

Barr told Fox News last month that Americans be able to recognize “some” of the names under investigation in Durham’s probe, and that he is “very troubled” by “what has been called to” his attention so far. Among other issues, Durham is reviewing whether federal agencies abused their surveillance powers to pursue figures associated with the Trump campaign.

@realDonaldTrump #CommonSense IF NO PROSECUTIONS TIL AFTER ELECTIONS SAD SAD //just think Flynn Mueller Impeachment/ The deep state is so deep that ppl get away w political crimes/Durham shld be producing some fruit of his labor [sic],” Grassley tweeted.

So, yeah, Trump, Barr, and the rest of the toadies are corrupting all parts of government to get Trump re-elected.

After being nearly silent for weeks about the wildfires in the West, Trump is flying to California tomorrow for a briefing.

The announcement of the visit, which was added to a three-day campaign swing through Nevada and Arizona, came after Mr. Trump tweeted Friday night thanking the firefighters and emergency medical workers. It was the president’s first acknowledgment in almost a month of a wildfire season that has claimed at least 20 lives and destroyed millions of acres of land in California, Oregon and Washington….

…The wildfires — which have created apocalyptic images of orange-hued skies, and served as a reminder of the consequences of climate change — have not come up in any of his public remarks in weeks.

In one of the last times he mentioned the fires, he blamed the state of California for its forest management. “I said you’ve got to clean your floors, you got to clean your forests,” he said at a Pennsylvania rally in August. He added, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

I believe this map is current —

Accuweather map posted 9/13

Somebody should tell Trump that the fires have spread to states he might win in November. Then he might take an interest. See also:

The blazes that raced across western Oregon this week could be the most unexpected element in a fire season that’s full of surprises: Not just more wildfires, but wildfires in places that don’t usually burn.

The forests between Eugene and Portland haven’t experienced fires this severe in decades, experts say. What’s different this time is that exceptionally dry conditions, combined with unusually strong and hot east winds, have caused wildfires to spiral out of control, threatening neighborhoods that didn’t seem vulnerable until now.

“We’re seeing fires in places that we don’t normally see fires,” said Crystal A. Kolden, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Merced. “Normally it’s far too wet to burn.”

The fires in Oregon, which have led to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and are approaching the Portland suburbs, stand out from what has already been an extraordinary fire season in the West, where global warming, land-use changes and fire management practices have combined to create a hellish mix of smoldering forests, charred homes and choking air.

There appears to be no doubt among climate scientists that climate change is making western wildfires bigger and more intense. This is a seriously bad thing.

Oh, and hurricane conditions are expected tomorrow along the northern Gulf Coast, from Louisiana to the Florida pandandle. Just thought I’d mention that.

Stuff to Read

Quint Forgey, Politico, ‘We’ll put them down very quickly’: Trump threatens to quash election night riots

Benjamin Fearnow, Newsweek, Fox News Poll Shows Americans Saying Biden Is More Mentally Sound Than Trump to Serve as President

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, How Did the ‘Best-Prepared Country’ Become a Horror Story?