Dr. Deborah Birx expressed frustration with the World Health Organization privately to President Trump just days before the commander in chief announced a freeze on US funding for the organization, as the coronavirus task force member gains influence in the West Wing.
Birx’s comments came during an April 10 meeting of the White House task force, when Trump polled her, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield for their thoughts on the institution, according to Axios.
Birx was very critical of WHO and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, the outlet reports, telling the president that the institution badly needed reform.
Four days later, Trump announced that efforts were underway to redirect WHO’s funding to other health organizations.
The situation highlights Birx’s increasing influence in the White House with shaping the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
“The media is clearly enamored with Fauci, but Dr. Birx is significantly more influential in the West Wing,” a senior White House official told Axios.
“It’s influence not just because she’s an operator — she’s also a workhorse. She’s the person building the models and poring over the data every night to brief POTUS and the task force.”
Colleagues on the task force tell the outlet that while Fauci speaks his mind with little thought of politics, Birx knows how to navigate the political waters and emphasizes what the president wants to hear while still giving him all the facts.
One veteran official described her as a “consummate DC operator.”
Birx has yielded that influence on multiple occasions.
Most recently, Birx expressed her growing agitation with the CDC, despite having known and worked with Redfield for decades.
According to CNN, Birx has made clear in recent meetings that she believes the way the CDC collects coronavirus data is antiquated, which has led to numbers on virus cases and deaths being both inaccurate and delayed.
In one recent meeting, a conversation between Birx and Redfield grew heated about the agency’s performance during the pandemic, the network reports.
Officials also alleged that while Birx defended Redfield to peers last year over the CDC’s faulty test kits, her tone on him has changed drastically in recent weeks.
While the CDC normally plays a leading role in public health emergencies, it has appeared largely silent during the global pandemic.
The agency has had its draft guidance for reopening the country held up by the White House for the past few weeks, according to the Washington Post, a sign of the growing rift.
Back in March, officials credited Birx for playing an important role in convincing the president to extend social distancing guidelines by another 30 days, according to Axios.
The outlet reports that when Birx picks a battle, Trump listens, which she privately did when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp decided to reopen tattoo parlors and hair salons.
Trump went on to slam the governor repeatedly on social media and when speaking to reporters.
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