The WHO is Trump's Current Scapegoat, and He's Out to Sacrifice It

Trump has been desperately casting around for a scapegoat, anyone to blame for his delays and dismissals of the novel coronavirus. Since early April, one of his victims has been the World Health Organization (WHO), whose funding he said he was cutting off:

President Donald Trump used Tuesday’s [Apr 14, 2020] White House press briefing on coronavirus to blame the World Health Organization for thousands of deaths in the pandemic while not acknowledging his administration’s faulty response in the U.S.
Trump announced that the U.S. would be halting funding to the WHO while it conducts a review of the organization’s response to the pandemic. This comes as the Trump administration has faced mounting criticism over its initial slow response to the crisis.…

That must have been some “review,” because now Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension

President Trump and his top aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, according to U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions.

The State Dept. has been told to remove all WHO references on its websites:

“The Secretary has asked the State Department and USAID to identify and utilize alternative implementers for foreign assistance programs beyond the WHO,” read a memo sent to State Department employees in recent days.

At the UN, the US is holding up a needed Security Council resolution because it makes a favorable reference to the WHO:

At the United Nations Security Council, the Trump administration has delayed a resolution responding to the health crisis, which the French have been trying to advance for weeks, because it disagrees with draft language that expresses support for the WHO, European officials said.

Foreign officials are saying the US will simply not budge:

“It has been impossible to find a common ground with the U.S. about the views on the work and role of WHO,” said a senior European official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe diplomatic discussions.


The U.S. administration is very fixated on the reelection campaign and on who can get blamed for this catastrophic covid-19 situation in the U.S.,” said a senior European official. “They are blaming WHO and China for it. Therefore it is very difficult to agree on a common language about the WHO.” [emphasis added]

Trump’s moves against the WHO are even riling up some Republicans:

The Trump administration’s moves against the WHO have concerned Democrats and  some Republicans who view undercutting the institution as risky in the middle of a global health crisis.
“I’m reluctant to think that the middle of the fight is the time to eliminate one of the partners in the fight, no matter how many concerns you have about what they’re doing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the Senate panel overseeing health funding.

(The administration does plan to continue supporting some WHO programs on polio and coronavirus, but apparently has not made a final decision.)

WHO does have to be deferential to all the countries it works in, as it has no power to compel cooperation. They also object to travel restrictions in general, having concluded that they don’t prevent the spread of a disease, but they do make it more difficult to get experts to disease areas. But they were faster off the mark than Trump. (I wrote a diary about Trump, the WHO, and China recently; on Jan 22, WHO issued a warning about definite human-to-human transmission and that the virus could appear anywhere; that same day, Trump said it was completely under control. And on Feb 24, Trump actually praised China and the WHO for their hard work.)

Trump is risking the health of the entire world in order to stay in office and out of jail.

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