Tom Marino withdraws as Trump nominee for drug czar after lobbying reports

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President Donald Trump says the Pennsylvania congressman he chose to be the country’s czar at the Office of National Drug Control Policy is withdrawing from consideration for the job.

Trump’s announcement Tuesday on Twitter follows reports by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes that Republican Rep. Tom Marino played a key role in passing a bill that weakened the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.

Marino, in his fourth term representing northeastern Pennsylvania, played a key role in the law along with a handful of other Republicans.

The Post reported Sunday that Marino and other members of Congress, along with the major drug distributors in the U.S., prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to an industry-friendly law that undermined efforts to restrict the flow of pain pills that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.

The Post called the 2016 law, signed by U.S. President Barack Obama, “the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market.”

The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Marino, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns, the newspaper reported.

A White House commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing opioid crisis.

Declaration still yet to be made

Trump on Monday raised the possibility of withdrawing his nomination of Marino following the reports.

Trump told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference that he will look at reports by The Washington Post and CBS News “very closely,” adding: “If I think it’s one per cent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change.”

Trump called Marino “a good man,” but said, somewhat ominously, “We’re going to be looking into Tom.”

Pennsylvania Congress

Marino, shown in 2012, played a key role in passing a bill that weakened the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)

An initial report from the commission in July noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks.”

More than 64,000 died in 2016 in the U.S., according to provisional results released last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It would represent a 22 per cent increase from the year before, and a figure more than three times the country’s homicide rate for 2016.

The overdose increases have been spurred by increases in deaths related to the use of heroin and fentanyl.

Trump has said he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” but so far has not done so.

Is Trump’s White House unravelling? | Washington Watch7:58

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/trump-marino-withdrawal-drug-czar-1.4358063?cmp=rss