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apologizes Spokesman

Top HHS spokesman apologizes to staff for accusing government scientists of sedition – CNN

(CNN)Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo on Tuesday apologized to staffers for a rant in which he accused career government scientists of “sedition” and working to undermine President Donald Trump, multiple sources familiar with the situation told CNN.

Caputo — a fierce defender of the President who was appointed to his post as assistant secretary of public affairs for HHS not long after the coronavirus pandemic began — mentioned a series of conspiracy theories in a Sunday live video on his personal Facebook page, including that there is a “resistance unit” against Trump inside the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caputo claimed that he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden will refuse to concede the election should Trump win, and political violence will ensue.
A source familiar with the matter said Caputo portrayed himself as a victim in his apology, but apologized for putting HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a bad light.
Caputo’s status at HHS is uncertain at this point and he was already treading on thin ice at the agency before the revelations about his comments on Facebook, a second source familiar with the situation said. It is unclear whether any action to move Caputo out of his current position is imminent, that source added, but discussions regarding Caputo’s future are ongoing. The first source said Caputo did not bring up his future in the apology.
A third source familiar with the matter said Caputo apologized to HHS staff Tuesday morning because he had embarrassed them, particularly career officials, and he felt badly about it. He also apologized to Azar on Tuesday for putting the secretary in a position of having to deal with the fallout of Caputo’s remarks, the source said.
The source added that it’s possible Caputo will take a leave of absence to address a medical issue, but a final decision has not been made.
Caputo is dealing with potential health issues that could force him to step aside, according to a fourth source familiar with the situation. Politico was first to report on Caputo’s apology and The New York Times was first to report that he is considering a leave of absence.
A source close to the White House coronavirus task force said Azar has been unhappy for some time with Caputo as deputy secretary. The source close to the White House said Caputo, who is a longtime Trump political operative, was forced upon Azar and the latest controversy likely won’t help his standing with the secretary.
During his Sunday broadside, Caputo lambasted the CDC, baselessly claiming that scientists “deep in the bowels of the CDC have given up science and become political animals.”
The scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Caputo added.
Caputo asserted that he was under attack by the media, that his physical health was in question and that his “mental health has definitely failed.” The Times reported that he “sounded anguished” over the nation’s coronavirus death toll — which has reached more than 195,000 dead, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. He warned people in the video to wear masks when attending the President’s campaign rallies.
Caputo also said he expected to stay in his position because the President supported him.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Caputo said in the video. “I swear to God, as God is my witness, I am not stopping.”
Caputo declined to discuss the matter any further in a brief phone interview with CNN later Monday, except to say he made the comments as he was dealing with some of the pressure caused by harassment to himself and his family over the last several days. He added that harassment included what he deemed to be death threats.
The fall-out following his Facebook rant Sunday is one of dual controversies encircling Caputo. A senior administration official told CNN Saturday that amid tension between the administration and the CDC, Caputo and his team had demanded to see weekly science reports from the CDC before they are released.
Officials within HHS had defended the demand, saying the CDC fell under the agency’s umbrella and that all communications and public documents needed to be cleared at the top.
Politico first reported about the pressure being put on the CDC regarding these reports.
This story has been updated with additional reporting Tuesday.

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Ex-NSC Spokesman

Ex-NSC spokesman Michael Anton describes Beirut explosion as ‘accident waiting to happen’ – Fox News

If Tuesday’s massive explosion in Beirut was an accident — as authorities claim — “it was an accident waiting to happen,” former Trump national security spokesman Michael Anton told “Bill Hemmer Reports” Wednesday.

Anton told guest host John Roberts the substance which ignited to cause the powerful blast was ammonium nitrate — a key component of agricultural fertilizer that had been stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port since 2013, when it was offloaded from a Russian-leased ship that had made an unscheduled stop there.

HEARTSTOPPING VIDEO SHOWS LEBANESE BRIDE POSING FOR EXPLOSION MOMENTS BEFORE BLAST

“Officials have worried about this for years saying we have to get this out of here,” Anton said. “This dragged on for seven years.”

Anton added that Lebanon’s government has been in a state of turmoil for more than four decades and is neither completely functional, nor does it have full control of all of its territory.

“I think the government itself will have a hard time getting a handle on this and American intelligence will be looking at it too,” he said. “Any time something happens in Lebanon … this country has been wracked by terrorism, civil war and economic deprivation for decades. Out of such difficult situations, it’s hard to find the truth.”

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Roberts noted that U.S. officials have told Fox News they have no evidence to support President Trump’s claim Tuesday that the Lebanese explosion was the result of a bomb. Anton said that, unlike some other combustible substances, ammonium nitrate does need more effort than a simple match to ignite.

According to Lebanon’s Health Ministry, Tuesday’s blast killed 135 people and injured approximately 5,000 others.

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Ex-government Spokesman

Ex-government spokesman pleads guilty to contract fraud in $4M scheme – NBC News

A former U.S. government spokesman pleaded guilty Thursday to cheating more than a dozen companies out of more than $4 million by falsely claiming he was working on top-secret programs for the CIA.

Garrison Courtney, a former spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and admitted that he engaged in a fraud scheme between 2012 and 2016, claiming to be a covert employee affiliated with the CIA. He said he was assigned to a highly classified government program called Alpha-214 that, in fact, did not exist.

Court documents said Courtney convinced private government contracting companies that they needed to put him on their payrolls to give him a cover story which would mask his CIA affiliation. The charges said he often met in secure locations with company representatives, persuaded them to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevented them from discussing the contracts with others, and told them they were under surveillance by foreign intelligence services. He threatened to revoke the security clearances of any company that tried to look into his supposedly covert status.

He also persuaded half a dozen former government officials he had worked with to give generic presentations to the companies in order to enhance his appearance of legitimacy. They acted as “unwitting props,” the Justice Department said. Courtney told the companies he was a U.S. Army veteran who killed hundreds during the Gulf War and survived an assassination attempt — none of which was true.

In the later phases of the scheme, he was actually hired as a private contractor for a branch of the National Institutes of Health that provides acquisition support. That position allowed him to try to steer contracts to companies that had put him on the payroll as part of his CIA scam.

Federal district court Judge Liam O’Grady scheduled sentencing for late October. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, although as a first-time offender his prison term will be shorter than that.

Courtney, 44, was a DHS spokesman for three years before serving as the chief DEA spokesman for four years, beginning in August 2005. He was also a spokesman for former Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.

Pete Williams

Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.

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Caputo Spokesman

HHS spokesman Caputo calls coronavirus whistleblower ‘second coming of Christine Blasey Ford’ – Fox News

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Former Trump campaign adviser and new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesman Michael Caputo blasted whistleblower Rick Bright Thursday, claiming he is disgruntled over his “profile” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I come to work here in Washington 24/7, like everybody else does,” Caputo told “The Ingraham Angle.” “There are 84,000 people at HHS who are working every day and Dr. Bright, who makes $285,000 a year, can’t find his way to work.

“To me, that’s just — I mean, for everybody back in my hometown who are locked down, who are losing their businesses, who aren’t able to go to school, that’s got to really smell up to high heaven.”

OUSTED HHS OFFICIAL WARNS OF ‘DARKEST WINTER IN MODERN HISTORY’ IF PROPER VIRUS STEPS NOT TAKEN

HHS pushed back on Bright’s testimony and whistleblower complaint earlier Thursday, accusing him of “politicizing the response” to coronavirus.

Bright has said he was removed for opposing the use of unproven antimalarial drug  hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, but the department has claimed Bright was actually a proponent of the drug.

“Everybody I’ve talked to around here just remembers him being a documented supporter of hydroxychloroquine,” Caputo said. “When he’s filed his whistleblower complaint, he made it all about that drug because he knew it was a hit right at President Trump. And that’s what this is.”

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The HHS official then compared Bright to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process in 2018.

“He’s really just a second coming of Christine Blasey Ford,” Caputo said. “It’s an attack on President Trump. It’s an attack on [HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar. And it’s an attempt to really politicize this for November.”

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.

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Russian Spokesman

Spokesman For Russian President Putin Hospitalized With Coronavirus | NBC Nightly News – NBC News

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced today he’s been hospitalized along with his wife. He described his condition as stable and said he hasn’t seen Putin in a month.

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Spokesman For Russian President Putin Hospitalized With Coronavirus | NBC Nightly News

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