President Donald Trump says the Pennsylvania congressman he chose to be the nation’s drug czar is withdrawing from consideration for the job.
“Rep. Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” the president tweeted.
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
The announcement on social media came two days after an investigation by the Washington Post and CBS News’ “60 Minutes” revealed that Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, forged 2016 legislation that that prevented the Drug Enforcement Administration from using its full power to prevent the opioid crisis from worsening. Trump had nominated Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates the country’s strategies and resources for combatting drug use.
Democrats had called on Trump to withdraw the nomination. Marino could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had said confirming Marino as the nation’s drug czar would be like “putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose home state of West Virginia has been among the hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic, said he was horrified at the accounts of the 2016 law and Marino’s role in it.
Manchin scolded the Obama administration for failing to “sound the alarm on how harmful that bill would be for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic,” which kills an estimated 142 people a day nationwide.
In a letter to Trump, Manchin called the opioid crisis “the biggest public health crisis since HIV/AIDS,” and said, “we need someone leading the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy who believes we must protect our people, not the pharmaceutical industry.”
The Post reported Sunday that the drug industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Marino, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns. The major drug distributors prevailed upon the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department to agree to the industry-friendly law, which undermined efforts to restrict the flow of pain pills that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, defended the measure Monday, calling allegations that he or Marino “conspired” with drug companies “utterly ridiculous.” Hatch, a 40-year veteran of the Senate, said he was “no patsy” of the drug industry.
The language affecting DEA enforcement authority was suggested by DEA and the Justice Department, Hatch said, adding that the agencies could have tried to stop the bill at any time — or recommended that Obama veto the measure.
“Let’s not pretend that DEA, both houses of Congress and the Obama White House all somehow wilted under Representative Marino’s nefarious influences,” Hatch said.
In 2016, an estimated 64,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs in the United States, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 91 Americans die daily from opioids. And the president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in July recommended that he declare this public health epidemic a national emergency. Trump said he would but has not yet done so. During a press conference Monday, Trump signaled that he would make the declaration next week.
The Associated Press’ Darlene Superville and Matthew Daly co-wrote this report.