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HHS Secretary Alex Azar reportedly blindsided by Trump putting Pence in charge of coronavirus response

February 26, 2020
Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

After spending weeks leading the government's coronavirus task force, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar found out he was being pushed aside just minutes before President Trump made the announcement during a Wednesday evening press conference, five people with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Post.

Trump revealed that Vice President Mike Pence will now head the task force, and everyone involved will report to him. A senior administration official told the Post Pence will lead his first meeting on Thursday, and decided to hold it at HHS "as a show of support to Azar."

Azar was asked Wednesday morning about the possibility of the administration appointing a czar to guide the government's response, and responded that he "didn't anticipate" this happening, as things were "working extremely well." At the end of Trump's press conference, Azar made sure to tell reporters he was still chairman of the task force, and was "delighted" to have Pence on board. Catherine Garcia