The White House is disputing reports that President Donald Trump is planning to replace embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19.”
But Politico reports that four people have confirmed ongoing discussions about plans to replace Azar.
The short list for his replacement reportedly includes White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, Medicare chief Seema Verma and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, said the four people familiar with the talks.
What are problems with Azar?
Among other things, the White House is angry his handling of the ouster of vaccine expert Rick Bright, according to Politico.
Azar allegedly told Vice President Mike Pence that Bright’s move to the National Institutes of Health was a promotion. Then Bright and his lawyers released a statement that he would soon file a whistleblower complaint against HHS leadership, "blindsiding White House officials, according to three officials familiar with the meeting," according to Politico and other outlets.
Azar has been at the center of long-running turmoil at the health department. He reportedly urged Trump to act on the Covid-19 outbreak in January, only for the president and his aides to disregard Azar’s warnings as alarmist.
Azar has denied much of this, saying that Trump “never once rejected, turned down or dismissed a recommendation” of his or the task force’s.
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