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Donald Trump hosts leaders for an Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House.
Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

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Michael Caputo, the US health department’s top spokesman who has been under fire for making false comments on Facebook, apologized in an emergency staff meeting today and signaled he might soon depart his role, according to a report in Politico.

The Trump appointee, who has faced accusations of trying to muzzle an important scientific report amid the pandemic, apologized for his Facebook live video in which he said scientists battling the virus are conspiring against the president. In the widely criticized social media comments, he also warned of shooting in the US if Trump loses the election.

The department is standing by Caputo so far in the face of calls by congressional democrats for his dismissal and also for the resignation of his boss, the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, Alex Azar. But Caputo, a Trump loyalist and former New York political operative, has become a significant new problem for a White House that has struggled all year with its coronavirus response.

He can be heard on an HHS podcast asserting that Democrats don’t want a coronavirus vaccine before the election in order to punish Trump. Trump has made the same assertion, with no evidence to support it, but such broadsides are not in a department spokesman’s normal portfolio. News reports alleged last week that Caputo’s office tried to take over and muzzle a scientific weekly published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that publishes what is supposed to be authoritative, unvarnished information about disease-fighting efforts, including, most importantly at present, Covid-19.

UPDATE

— Caputo has signaled his desire to take medical leave
— He claimed to staff he had never read a single MMWR, despite efforts to meddle w reports
— He concluded meeting by telling staff to listen to the Grateful Deadhttps://t.co/HoBYgDB7Ej with @adamcancryn @owermohle

The US government has deported a key witness in an ongoing investigation into sexual assault and harassment at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention center, according to a new report in the Texas Tribune.

Late Monday, Ice deported a 35-year-old woman who was held at an El Paso immigrant detention center for a year and spoke up about a “pattern and practice” of abuse that included guards assaulting her and other detainees, the paper reported, citing the witness’ lawyers.

NEW: ICE deported a crucial witness in an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment at an El Paso immigrant detention center, according to the witness’ lawyers.

With @ProPublica: https://t.co/63mFRBkJbD

Related: Ice detainees faced medical neglect and hysterectomies, whistleblower alleges

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