Trump threatens to permanently cut off WHO funding, withdraw U.S. membership

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US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the Governors of Colorado and North Dakota on May 13, 2020, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut off U.S. funding of the World Health Organization, in a letter dated Monday that he shared on Twitter.

Trump said that if the WHO “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization.”

Last month, Trump halted U.S. funding for the WHO as his administration conducted a review of the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the agency said “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding.”

It’s not immediately clear how Trump would withhold those funds, much of which are appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

The renewed threat comes as the Trump administration faces criticism for how it has handled the crisis. The United States is the worst hit country with more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported and at least 90,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the Monday letter, the president said the review “confirmed many of the serious concerns I raised last month.” It also outlines what the White House perceived as “repeated missteps” by the organization and its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The letter echoes Trump’s previous complaint that the WHO resisted issuing a travel advisory in the early days of the outbreak. When the agency declared the situation a global health emergency in late January, Tedros advised countries against imposing “measures that unnecessarily interfere with international trade or travel.” 

Trump’s letter also repeats growing scrutiny over how the WHO handles information reported by China. The president previous accused the agency of being “China centric.”

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China … I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” the letter said.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Noah Higgins- Dunn contributed to this report.

Source: CNBC

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