Politics & Government

‘I’m not leaving,’ Trump’s FDA commissioner said 2 months before resigning

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, answers a question from a Senate committee examining the federal response to the opioid addiction crisis, at the Capitol in Washington.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, answers a question from a Senate committee examining the federal response to the opioid addiction crisis, at the Capitol in Washington. AP

The leader of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced his resignation Tuesday, just two months after writing on Twitter that he would not be leaving the Trump administration.

“I want to be very clear - I’m not leaving,” Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, said in a message from his verified Twitter account on Jan. 3. “We’ve got a lot important policy we’ll advance this year. I look forward to sharing my 2019 strategic roadmap soon.”

Gottlieb suggested the tweet was in response to a forthcoming news story speculating on his departure.

Along with the written message, the FDA leader shared a photo of Mark Twain with the quote: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

But two months later, Gottlieb announced he would be leaving the federal agency to spend more time with his family in Connecticut, the Washington Post reports. He is a doctor and former venture capitalist, according to the newspaper.

“I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to help lead this wonderful agency,” Gottlieb wrote on Twitter. “This has been a wonderful journey and parting is very hard.”

Gottlieb also thanked Trump and Health Secretary Alex Azar for their “strong support” of him.

Trump took to Twitter to praise Gottlieb’s accomplishments in the role, writing that “his talents will be greatly missed!”

Azar said in a statement that Gottlieb’s leadership “inspired historic results from the FDA team,” including tackling the opioid epidemic and raising the alarm about the risks of teen vaping.

Vapes and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years. Often advertised as a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes, medical professionals still have much to learn about their health effects.

Turnover of top leaders in Trump’s administration and cabinet is higher than in previous White Houses, according to an analysis of staff changes by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

“The disruption is highly consequential,” said Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which monitors federal government managerial issues, according to the New York Times. “When you lose a leader, it has a cascade effect throughout the organization.”

And vacant positions that have been growing across federal agencies have worried Republicans on Capitol Hill as well, the Washington Post reported in February.

“It’s a lot. It’s way too many,” Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said of cabinet-level leaders serving in an acting rather than permanent capacity, the Post reported. “You want to have confirmed individuals there because they have a lot more authority to be able to make decisions and implement policy when you have a confirmed person in that spot.”

President Trump declared a national emergency to unlock funds for a border wall that he couldn’t get from Congress. Those Republicans supporting the move didn’t approve when President Obama used his executive power to act on immigration in 2014.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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