As Marino steps down, Trump praises drug czar pick as 'a fine man'

Michael Walsh
Reporter

After public outcry, President Trump announced that his choice for drug czar had withdrawn his name from consideration, while praising the embattled politician as “a fine man and a great Congressman.”

Trump revealed that Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., is no longer his nominee for the top position at the Office of National Drug Control Policy on Twitter Tuesday morning.


Last month the president nominated Marino, an early supporter of his candidacy, to the prestigious post responsible for developing strategies to stop drug abuse and promote access to substance abuse treatments. But an astonishing exposé by the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” on Sunday about Marino’s ties to drug companies drew fierce criticism.

Marino, who has accepted large donations from the pharmaceutical industry, was the primary sponsor of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, passed by Congress last year. The legislation contained certain highly technical provisions that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to stop suspicious opioid shipments. For years, drug companies had reportedly ignored DEA warnings to stop the suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, which resulted in billions of dollars in sales.

President Trump said Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., has withdrawn his name from consideration to be the country’s drug czar. (Photos: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

DEA whistleblowers say the agency fought Marino’s bill for years, but key members of Congress and lobbyists ultimately prevailed. Opponents say it contributed to the growing opioid crisis.

As opioids flood U.S. streets, drug overdoses are the nation’s leading cause of accidental death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day, and more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015. Early data suggest that this figure will be higher for 2016.

Trump was asked whether he still had confidence in Marino during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday afternoon. He said he had seen the report and would “take it very seriously.”

“This country — and frankly, the world — has a drug problem. The world has a drug problem. But we have it, and we’re going to do something about it,” Trump said. “So we’re going to have a major announcement on that problem next week. We’re gonna be looking into Tom.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate minority leader, said in a statement Tuesday that Marino made the right decision by withdrawing, but “the fact that he was nominated in the first place is further evidence that when it comes to the opioid crisis, the Trump administration talks the talk, but refuses to walk the walk.

“The opioid crisis demands that the next drug czar is solely focused on getting communities across the country the help they desperately need,” Schumer continued. “I hope the Trump administration nominates someone that fits the bill.”

Similarly, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement:

“I think this is the right decision, and I look forward to the Administration nominating a leader that can aggressively bring to bear every tool the government has to confront what is unquestionably a national public health crisis.”

Marino’s office has not responded to a request for comment from Yahoo News.

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