The session left some staff with the impression that Caputo would soon step down as the department’s assistant secretary of public affairs, the three people, aware of the meeting, said, although they warned that his fate was still in motion. During the meeting, Caputo made allusions to the fact that HHS had operated for a long time in the past without a permanent top communications officer.
A former HHS official told POLITICO separately that Caputo, a former Trump campaigner who has long complained about stress caused by being mentioned in the Special Council’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is considering taking medical leave.
HHS declined to comment.
The meeting came in the wake of a tumultuous week for Caputo, a close ally of President Donald Trump, who was installed as HHS̵
Caputo was at the center of a series of reports of political interference with the department’s Covid-19 response, including POLITICO reports, which he and top adviser Paul Alexander sought to influence important CDC scientific bulletins. Alexander, who was hired by Caputo in the spring, also pushed infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci to downplay the virus’ risk to children.
On Sunday, Caputo took to Facebook Live to clear up a series of wild and false accusations that warned of an armed uprising after the election and claimed without evidence that public health officials were trying to undermine Trump’s re-election offer.
Several people inside and outside the administration subsequently raised concerns with Azar and the White House about the Facebook Live video.