On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by a revered scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, “We have way too much virus across the country.” But Dr. Alexander, a part-time assistant professor of health research methods, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.
“Her aim is to embarrass the president,” he wrote, commenting on Dr. Schuchat’s appeal for face masks in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“She is duplicitous,” he also wrote in an email to his boss, Michael R. Caputo, the Health and Human Services Department’s top spokesman who went on medical leave this week.
Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander attempted to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and attempting to silence agency staff.
On Wednesday, Mr. Caputo went on leave from the Department of Health and Human Services, just days after he attacked C.D.C. scientists during a bizarre Facebook video in which he predicted armed insurrection after the election and encouraged his followers to stock up on ammunition.
The department also announced that Dr. Alexander would leave the government.