GOP operative at HHS unravels, pushes conspiratorial nonsense

In a normal administration, following today's revelations, Michael Caputo would be cleaning out his desk today and writing his resignation letter.
Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington
Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers on Capitol Hill on May 1, 2018.Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS
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By Steve Benen

Michael Caputo is not a household name, though as we've discussed, he's recognized in political circles as a notorious Republican political operative and a Roger Stone protégé. Nevertheless, earlier this year the White House tapped Caputo, who had no meaningful background in health care or science, for a leadership role at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The results have been problematic, to put it mildly. Last month, for example, in an official government podcast, Caputo pushed a conspiracy theory involving journalists whom he believes oppose the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Last week, Politico reported that Caputo and his team have also tried to exert political influence over CDC reports.

But today's New York Times report on Caputo takes matters in a new and unfortunate direction.

The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus accused career government scientists on Sunday of "sedition" in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Evidently, he wasn't kidding. The GOP operative serving as the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, apparently hosts Facebook Live events nearly every Sunday, and last night, he was in rare form.

Caputo said, for example, that unnamed opponents may be preparing to kill him. He said his "mental health has definitely failed." He described "shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long."

The HHS official went on to encourage people to "buy ammunition," because he believes "the shooting will begin" at Donald Trump's second inaugural, thanks in part to the "squads being trained all over this country."

Caputo also lashed out at CDC scientists whom he suspects of conspiring against the White House, and later told the New York Times that politically motivated scientists "are all going to hell."

Let's just make this plain: in a normal, functioning administration that cared about governing, following the release of a report like this one, Michael Caputo would be cleaning out his desk today and writing a nice note about needing to spend more time with his family. But since this is not a normal administration, I fear the president and his team will soon look for ways to give him a promotion.

Postscript: Let's note for context that, before joining HHS in the spring, Caputo wrote a weird book about Trump's impeachment scandal. His name also pops up in the Mueller Report on Trump's Russia scandal.