There’s no other agency with as much power to respond to COVID-19 as the Department of Health and Human Services.
That’s part of what made exiled HHS spokesman Michael Caputo’s litany of wrongdoing so egregious. Not only did he try to assert political control over key weekly reports on the spread of the virus, he also went on an unhinged rant Sunday in which he forecasted a civil war after the November election and said that he was being persecuted by leftist hit squads operating in the CDC.
“When Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” Caputo said. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
He added that “there are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”
But what’s been the consequence for Caputo?
Not even dismissal. Rather, he attributed the problems to a medical issue and took a 60 day leave to resolve the problem.
Take a look at how far various Trump administration officials went toward condemning Caputo.
Dr. Redfield told Congress on Wednesday that he found it depressing.
“It deeply saddened me that those false accusations were made by a group of really unbelievably professional people that serve this nation,” Redfield said.
What about HHS Secretary Alex Azar? He is Caputo’s ostensible boss, after all, with firing authority over the former Roger Stone driver.
“I’m not going to comment on somebody’s personal social media posts,” Azar told The Tennessean after the comments came to light. “Obviously, some of those statements are concerning. Michael Caputo has been a valued member of our coronavirus response but I’m not otherwise going to get into that.”
Caputo himself tapped into a coursing vein of emotion in Trumpworld, which is at least rhetorically laying the groundwork for the need to instigate post-election violence.
Another former Trump official, Michael Anton, recently wrote an essay called “The Coming Coup,” in which he accused the Democratic Party of preparing to violently overthrow the Trump administration — an echo of many of the same themes about which Caputo ranted.
Recall that Anton spent much of tenure at the National Security Council under siege for apocalyptic posts about a forthcoming civil war and calling for an end to birthright citizenship. But it wasn’t for that that he left the government; rather, Anton resigned because John Bolton was coming to lead the NSC.
It’s a pattern for scandals in the Trump era.
As for Caputo, he seems to be looking forward to returning to work — after the election.
He told TPM in an email on Wednesday that he would “be back” and that he had set the agency “up for success.”