President Trump announced Tuesday that the U.S. is placing a hold on funding to the World Health Organization for 60–90 days over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, pending a review.
Driving the news: Trump accused the WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus crisis, adding that the U.S. “has a duty to insist on full accountability.”
- “With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said at a briefing in the Rose Garden.
- “If we cannot trust them, if this is what we will receive from the WHO, our country will be forced to find other ways to work with other nations to achieve public health goals.”
By the numbers: The WHO’s 2018–2019 budget was about $6 billion, and the U.S. is by far the biggest donor of any country, contributing more than $400 million to the organization last year.
- “American taxpayers provided between $400 million and $500 million per year to the WHO. In contrast, China contributes roughly $40 million a year, or even less,” Trump said Tuesday.
- “As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability. One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations.”
Behind the scenes: Trump has been fuming for days about what he sees as the WHO’s botched response to the pandemic and its deference to China.
- “The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look,” Trump tweeted last week.
- Trump’s national security team has rallied behind him, believing that the U.S. needed to go beyond public statements and make the WHO feel some pain for its missteps, according to officials involved in the internal discussions.
- Our thought bubble: The decision gives Trump somebody else to blame and a way to deflect from his own missteps in handling the virus.
Details: Below are some of Trump’s specific complaints, which he said led him to his decision to freeze U.S. funding:
- “The WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion. … The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”
- “The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts. There was credible information to suspect human-to-human transmission in December 2019, which should have spurred the WHO to investigate.”
- “Through the middle of January, it parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission happening, despite reports and clear evidence to the contrary. “
- “The delays the WHO experienced in declaring a public health emergency cost valuable time, tremendous amounts of time.”
- “The inability of the WHO to obtain virus samples to this day has deprived the scientific community of essential data.”
- “The WHO has not addressed a single one of these concerns nor provided a serious explanation that acknowledges its own mistakes, of which there were many.”
Background: Over the past week, officials within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget have been working on a menu of options for how to snub the WHO. Trump administration officials told Axios the options fall along two tracks.
- The most likely route is to reprogram U.S. funding that was allocated to the WHO, moving it to other international organizations that can administer it for comparable purposes, officials said.
- A more dramatic, but less likely, approach is to send a rescissions package to Congress, rescinding from the federal budget funds already allocated to WHO. A similar approach was adopted in 2017 when the U.S. cut $285 million from its funding to the United Nations.
- Trump did not reveal on Tuesday which mechanism he will use to halt funding to the organization.
What they’re saying: António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, to which the WHO reports, said in a statement, “Now is a time for unity in the global battle to push the COVID-19 pandemic into reverse, not a time to cut the resources of the … WHO, which is spearheading and coordinating the global body’s efforts.”