When did you first realize that something had gone wrong between you and President Trump?
This coincided very much with the rapid escalation of cases in the northeast of the country, particularly in the New York metropolitan area. I would try to express the gravity of the situation and the president’s answer always tended to be, “Well, it’s not that bad, is it?” And I’d say, “Yeah, it’s that bad.” It was almost a reflex response trying to persuade you to minimize it. Not saying, “I want you to minimize it,” but, “Oh, really, was it that bad?”
And the other thing that really worried me was that it was clear he was getting input from people who called him. I don’t know who, folks he knew in business and said, “Hey, I’ve heard about this drug, isn’t it great? “or,” Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal. “And I would try to calmly explain that you can find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial and when you get the information, give it a peer review And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”
He would take her opinion just as seriously – based on no data, just anecdotes – that something could be really important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative medicine-type approaches. It was always: “A man called me, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” Then my fear escalated.
Did you have any problems with him during the first three years of his presidency?
No, he hardly knew who I was. The first time I met him was in September 2019 when they asked me to come to the White House, bring my white coat, and stand there when he signed an ordinance on something about influenza. From January, February 2020, there was intense participation that went to the White House very, very often.
There was a point last February when things changed. Alex Azar headed the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House and then suddenly Mike Pence was and President Trump stood on the podium, taking questions and discussing with reporters. What happened?