President Trump on Tuesday said he is directing his administration to halt U.S. funding of the World Health Organization, as he accused the WHO of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus. He threatened to freeze U.S. funding to the international organization earlier this month.
“The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion,” the president said in a Rose Garden press conference.
According to USA Today, Trump has accused the organization of not moving quickly enough to sound the alarm over COVID-19 and of being too China friendly. He has attacked the agency for advising the U.S. against banning travel from China to other parts of the world amid the outbreak.
“And the World – WHO – World Health got it wrong,” the president told reporters at the White House last week. “I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly and – not good.”
Axios broke it down:
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 WHO 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.
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.”
The backdrop: 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 options fell 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.