As Trump Administration Pulls Out of WHO, Merkley Slams Abdication of Global Leadership to China

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees multilateral institutions, released the following statement after the Trump administration sent a letter formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the U.S. leaves the international public health organization, the vacuum left by its absence will likely be filled by increased Chinese influence and pressure within the organization.

“President Trump and Secretary Pompeo today are delivering a huge win for China and a huge blow to the American people.  By pulling out of the WHO, President Trump is strengthening Chinese leadership and power, both within the WHO and more broadly within the international community. This is a huge mistake that damages American interests.

“But the consequences for the American people go well beyond foreign policy. Cutting the United States out of the World Health Organization in the middle of the worst global pandemic in a century makes Americans more vulnerable. By abandoning the efforts to control the virus abroad, we’re ensuring that far more Americans will get sick, either through foreign travelers coming to the U.S., or through Americans traveling abroad. This move is entirely calculated to help President Trump’s political interests, not to advance American interests either at home or abroad.

“It’s no coincidence that the Trump administration is announcing this move at the same time as the president slashes resources for testing and continues to shirk mask-wearing instead of encouraging Americans to protect themselves and others. President Trump is doubling down on his failed strategies—designed to preserve optics, not lives—that have tragically led to more than 130,000 American deaths already. We need strong American leadership both at home and abroad to contain this deadly pandemic. Instead, we are getting more finger-pointing and blame shifting while Americans die.”