Members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet reinforced his decision to ingest an unproven treatment to prevent coronavirus on Tuesday, insisting the drug was safe even as none volunteered they were taking it themselves.
The public support for Trump’s use of hydroxychloroquine is hardly surprising given the premium Trump has placed on loyalty among his Cabinet members. But even for an administration known for fealty, the declarations of support for a drug the US Food and Drug Administration has warned might be dangerous were notable.
Trump was hosting his Cabinet at the White House for the first time in months as the coronavirus pandemic has consumed the administration. Unlike previous sessions, Tuesday’s meeting occurred in the East Room, which provides more space than the West Wing Cabinet Room for officials to spread out.
No officials wore masks, though they were spaced several feet apart and spoke into microphones.
As they went around the table, the Cabinet members uniformly praised Trump’s handling of the pandemic and tried to insist the worst may be over.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the administration’s coronavirus task force, announced all 50 US states had partially opened their economies. The American people, Pence said, “are breathing free air and doing it responsibly.”
At the same time, efforts to locate and eliminate officials deemed disloyal continued, including over the past month, when Trump replaced or removed four inspectors general from his administration he viewed as Obama holdovers or as part of the so-called “deep state” he believes is working against him.
The ousted watchdogs are Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, acting Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that he had asked Trump to remove Linick because the independent watchdog was “undermining” the department and wasn’t performing in a way that the top US diplomat wanted him to.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have said Linick was probing whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, as well as completing an investigation into Pompeo’s decision to fast-track an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
At the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has also continued to draw criticism for interfering in cases involving Trump’s former political advisers, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, and softening prosecutors’ stances toward them for political reasons.
On Monday, Barr tried to tamp down speculation that a review of the Russia probe that began in 2016 would result in criminal charges against former President Barack Obama, saying instead that he was attempting to curtail the politicization of Justice Department investigations.
“Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others,” Barr added.
Later, Trump said he was surprised by Barr’s comments.