After nine months without finding the right candidate, it looked like the Trump drug czar search might finally come to a conclusion. The search will have to continue, however, after President Donald Trump’s nominee, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) withdrew his name from consideration following damning reports by The Washington Post and CBS News.
According to Leafly.com, the reports shined a light on Marino’s involvement in a 2016 law, signed by President Obama, which weakened the federal government’s authority to block companies from distributing opioids.
As we have reported before, an American Society of Addiction report cited by Leafly, shows that 33,091 Americans died from opioid-related overdoses in 2015. That’s 91 deaths every day. And the numbers are growing.
Trump has equated the opioid crisis with a “national emergency,” and it’s clear that nominating anyone as drug czar who may have even indirectly contributed to the problem would send the wrong message. The day after the reports, Trump told reporters that if he thought Marino’s nomination was “1 percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change.”
The next day, during an interview on Fox News Radio, the president said Marino told him that “if there’s even a perception that he has a conflict of interest...he doesn’t want anything to do with” the job. “He felt compelled,” Trump added. “He feels very strongly about the opioid problem and the drug problem and Tom Marino said, ‘Look, I’ll take a pass.”
As of the time of this writing, Marino hadn’t spoken publicly, nor had the next Trump drug czar nominee been named. According to STATnews.com, however, names of possible contenders are starting to circulate.
Outgoing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might be the leading remaining candidate. He has chaired the president’s commission on the opioid crisis since March, and has also unveiled a $200 million program to address the epidemic in his state that has been lauded nationwide. As of now, Christie has not been offered — or expressed an interest in — becoming czar.
Another potential choice is Bertha Madras, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, who currently serves on a presidential commission dedicated to helping the federal government fight the opioid epidemic. Madras says she is currently focused on wrapping up an Opioid Commission report, and won’t be to “focus on the future” until it’s finished.
Also mentioned as possible candidates are Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general and a member of Christie’s commission, and Richard Baum, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. However, past pay-to-play allegations against Bondi and Baum’s institutionalist reputation could bar them from serious consideration.
We’ll keep you posted on how the Trump drug czar search develops.