In “Preventable,” his new book detailing the federal government’s failures on mitigating the pandemic, Andy Slavitt writes that he met with Birx last August in Minnesota after she briefed local officials. Once a close adviser to Trump, she had been cast out of his inner circle by that time and replaced by Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist with no epidemiological experience whom Trump hired after watching him on Fox News.
Sidelined from her once prominent role, Birx spent her days traveling the country and providing detailed data to government officials. It was one of those briefings in Minnesota that she invited Slavitt to attend.
“I wanted to get a sense for whether, in the event of a strained transition of government, she would help give Biden and his team the best chance to be effective,” Slavitt writes in his new book, even though the outcome of the election was not yet known.
“At one point, after a brief pause, she looked me in the eye and said, ‘I hope the election turns out a certain way,'” Slavitt writes. “I had the most important information I needed.”
CNN has reached out to Birx for comment.
For the last six months, Slavitt has served as Biden’s senior adviser on the Covid-19 response. That public-facing position included regular television appearances and weekly briefings with reporters. Slavitt stepped down from that role on Thursday, citing a 130-day limit on special government employees. His new book, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, comes out Tuesday.
Before serving in the Biden administration, Slavitt played a quieter role in the pandemic response as he watched Trump downplay it from the outside. Slavitt advised several officials while Trump was in office, including in phone conversations with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, where he urged them to take it more seriously and place greater emphasis on testing.
During their conversation last August, Birx told Slavitt she had been “completely silenced” and was not allowed to make appearances on national media. It was a sharp turn from Birx’s earlier proximity to Trump, which included regular briefings in front of reporters and private consultations in the Oval Office.
“Fighting the virus and Scott Atlas together is the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” Birx said as she briefed officials with Slavitt in the room last August, he writes.
Those moves often elicited strong criticism from public health officials, who said Birx was papering over Trump’s unscientific statements while providing him cover. Others defended Birx, pointing to the long hours she worked gathering data used to make critical decisions. In her conversation with Slavitt, Birx appeared to recognize the damage to her reputation.
“I have no illusions about my career in government,” she told him.
‘She was downright scared’
Slavitt writes that when he met with Birx in August, “her early optimism was long gone.” According to him, “at the end of October 2020, she was beyond all of that; she was downright scared.”
Although Birx had indicated she was open to serving in the Biden administration after he won the election, she quietly announced…