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In early May 2018, media reports noted that Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, the top White House expert on global health security, had suddenly left the National Security Council. Moreover, the NSC team he oversaw was disbanded by John Bolton, the national security adviser, as part of a reorganization. As the Washington Post put it, this meant no senior official in the Trump administration was “now focused solely on global health security.”
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) were troubled by this news, and they sent Bolton a letter noting the dismantling of the NSC’s global health squad “comes amid continuing concerns that the nation and the world are unprepared for pandemic outbreaks or other global health threats.” (At the time, there was a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.) They posed Bolton a series of questions about the NSC’s preparedness to address a pandemic, including, “What current structure is in place at the NSC to address global health security?” And the pair requested a “staff-level briefing on the Administration’s global public health work” within two weeks.
In an interview with Mother Jones this week, Warren recalls that Bolton blew them off.
Bolton, she notes, did not provide her and Murray the briefing they requested on global health security and pandemic preparedness. The senators received a generic response letter that did not address their list of questions. Warren says this reply symbolizes “the heart of why this [coronavirus] crisis is hitting so hard right now. Our government has been run for the past three years by people who don’t believe in government or at least don’t believe in government except to help themselves and their friends.” She adds, “The consequence of that is that they were willing day after day after day to strip out the people who perform the basic functions of government.”
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