“My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organization. But action is needed quickly. We do not have time to waste.”
The threat comes at a remarkable time. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 90,000 Americans and more than 318,000 people worldwide as of late Monday and, while there are promising signs from some vaccine trials, there is no cure for the virus. The letter also underscores the extent to which blame aimed at the WHO and China has become a defining part of the President’s response to the outbreak.
The ultimatum is a sign of Trump’s instinct to distrust global institutions at a time when many of his predecessors would rely on such relationships to help stem the tide of a pandemic.
The letter on official White House letterhead, screenshots of which were posted to Twitter, assails the WHO’s stance toward China throughout the pandemic and lists a series of allegations that the organization overlooked warning signs.
“I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” the President wrote.
The move comes after comes after Trump temporarily halted funding to the organization last month.
“The US funds $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year,” Trump said at the time, noting that China “contributes roughly $40 million.”
“Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death,” Trump said then.
Tedros responded at the time by affirming that the WHO will continue working with other countries and argued that unity is key to fighting the coronavirus.
Trump’s decision to temporarily withdraw funding from the WHO follows a pattern of skepticism of world organizations that began well before the coronavirus outbreak. The President has questioned the value of the US funding sent to the United Nations, has withdrawn from global climate agreements and lambasted the World Trade Organization — claiming all were ripping off the US.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has criticized China and global institutions for problems plaguing the US, and the coronavirus pandemic has served as another data point in his attacks.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO as “China-centric” and failing to “objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency” as the coronavirus death toll increases globally.
Multiple sources inside the administration say that there is an appetite to use various tools, including sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies, to make clear to China and the rest of the world where the Trump administration feels responsibility for the pandemic lies.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.