Jonathan Swan – AXIOS
Scoop: Inside the epic White House fight over hydroxychloroquine
The White House coronavirus task force had its biggest fight yet on Saturday, pitting economic adviser Peter Navarro against infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. At issue: How enthusiastically should the White House tout the prospects of an antimalarial drug to fight COVID-19? Behind the scenes: This drama erupted into an epic Situation Room showdown. Trump’s coronavirus task force gathered in the White House Situation Room on Saturday at about 1:30pm, according to four sources familiar with the conversation. Vice President Mike Pence sat at the head of the table. Numerous government officials were at the table, including Fauci, coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Jared Kushner, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn. Behind them sat staff, including Peter Navarro, tapped by Trump to compel private companies to meet the government’s coronavirus needs under the Defense Production Act. Toward the end of the meeting, Hahn began a discussion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump believes could be a “game-changer” against the coronavirus. Hahn gave an update about the drug and what he was seeing in different trials and real-world results. Then Navarro got up. He brought over a stack of folders and dropped them on the table. People started passing them around.
“And the first words out of his mouth are that the studies that he’s seen, I believe they’re mostly overseas, show ‘clear therapeutic efficacy,'” said a source familiar with the conversation. “Those are the exact words out of his mouth.” Navarro’s comments set off a heated exchange about how the Trump administration and the president ought to talk about the malaria drug, which Fauci and other public health officials stress is unproven to combat COVID-19.
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