Top White House officials buried guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening America, despite the CDC director clearing the report, The Associated Press reported.
According to internal emails obtained by the AP, the detailed advice from experts, which spanned more than 60 pages, was meant to help religious leaders, business owners, educators, and state and local officials as they reopened upon federal social distancing guidelines expiring on April 30. However, the report was shelved by top officials the same day, according to the AP report.
The AP reported Thursday that the White House had killed the release of the guidance and it published 17 pages of the report, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework." The emails obtained by the AP showed that after their Thursday report, the White House subsequently fast-tracked the approval of the document.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Friday that the guidance was not approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield, who is a part of the White House coronavirus task force. However, the internal emails obtained by the AP paint a different timeline.
On April 10, Redfield shared the guidance via email with Trump's 'inner circle' and other task force members.
The email went to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, top adviser Kellyanne Conway, his assistant for domestic policy Joseph Grogan, Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, and other task force members, the AP reported.
The CDC report included detailed advice and flow charts called "decision trees" to help municipalities determine whether or not they can safely reopen their economies amid the pandemic.
Three days later, top CDC officials also sent the document to the Office of Management and Budget, "a step usually taken only when agencies are seeking final White House approval for documents they have already cleared," according to the AP report.
Redfield resent the guidance on April 24 via email to Birx and Grogan asking for their review so it could be published on the CDC website.
"We plan to post these to CDC's website once approved," Redfield wrote.
On April 26, the CDC still had not received word from the Trump administration, the internal emails showed.
"We need them as soon as possible so that we can get them posted," Robert McGowan, CDC chief of staff, wrote to OMB staffer Nancy Beck.
Beck replied saying she was awaiting approval from the White House Principals Committee, which is comprised of top officials from the White House.
"They need to be approved before they can move forward," Beck wrote to McGowan. "WH principals are in touch with the task force so the task force should be aware of the status."
Satya Thallam, another OMB staffer, reiterated the message on April 27 to the CDC, saying the documents "went to a West Wing principals committee on Sunday (April 26)," and the OMB had not "received word on specific timing for their considerations."
"However, I am passing along their message: they have given strict and explicit direction that these documents are not yet cleared and cannot go out as of right now," Thallam wrote. "This includes related press statements or other communications that may preview content or timing of guidances."
On April 30, the CDC heard back from the Trump administration after following up again, hours before the federal guidelines on social distancing were set to expire.
Quinn Hirsch, who works with White House's office of regulatory affairs (OIRA), wrote in an email to the CDC's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, saying the guidance should be "more cross-cutting and say when they should reopen and how to keep people safe."
"Fundamentally, the Task Force cleared this for further development, but not for release," Hirsch wrote.
CDC staff went back to work revising the guidance in hopes to offer state governments expert advice on reopening; meanwhile, the Trump administration had already introduced Opening Up America Again Plan.
Later that same day, three unnamed CDC officials told AP that McGowan said the guidance would "never see the light of day" despite all their best efforts.
"We would not even be allowed to post the decision trees," a CDC staffer said on May 1, according to the emails. "We had the team (exhausted as they are) stand down."
On May 7, after the AP published their first story of the guidance being buried, the White House ordered the CDC to refile the decision trees, except the ones about churches.
An email obtained by the AP confirmed the timeline, in which the White House called the CDC to refile hours after the news of the shelved report broke.
"Attached per the request from earlier today are the decision trees previously submitted to both OIRA and the WH Task Force, minus the communities of faith tree," the email read. "Please let us know if/when/how we are able to proceed from here."
Representatives from the White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.