Bill Gates calls Trump’s decision to halt funding for WHO dangerous

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Bill Gates delivers a speech at the fundraising day at the Sixth World Fund Conference in Lyon, France, on October 10, 2019.

Nicolas Liponne | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the White House should not withhold funding from the World Health Organization during a global pandemic, hours after President Donald Trump announced his intent to do so while the U.S. reviews the agency’s response to Covid-19. 

“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” Gates said on Twitter early Wednesday morning.

Gates’ wife Melinda posted an identical tweet Wednesday.

Gates has long focused on the health field within his work at the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, though he often avoids diving into political issues. He has, however, been speaking out on the coronavirus pandemic. In late March he said the United States missed its chance to avoid mandated shutdowns because it didn’t act fast enough on the pandemic.

The Wednesday tweet is a response to Trump, who said Tuesday that his administration is suspending funding from the WHO as it investigates how the agency reacted to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump said the international health agency made mistakes that “caused so much death,” as the virus continues to spread. 

Since it emerged more than three months ago in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 125,678, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The WHO designated the virus as a global health emergency on Jan. 30, when there were less than 10,000 confirmed cases across the globe.

It’s unclear exactly what mechanism Trump intends to use to withhold WHO funding, much of which is appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

One option might be for Trump to use powers granted to the president under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Under this statute, the president may propose to withhold congressional funds and actually halt them for up to 45 days.

During that 45 day window, the president can seek congressional approval to  redirect the funds for another purpose. Absent this approval, the funds must be returned to their original, congressionally mandated purpose after 45 days.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

–CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report. 

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