Trump Announces His Drug-Czar Nominee Is Withdrawing; 'This Country...Has a Drug Problem'

By Susan Jones | October 17, 2017 | 6:00am EDT
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (Screen grab/C-SPAN)

( - President Trump, speaking at an impromptu news conference on Monday, said he plans to have "a major announcement, probably next week," on the nation's opioid drug crisis.

The president also said he'll take another look at the man he's nominated to be his drug czar, now that questions have surfaced about the nominee's support for the makers and distributors of prescription pain pills.

(On Tuesday morning, after this story was published, Trump tweeted: "Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!)

"This country, and frankly the world, has a drug problem. The world has a drug problem," Trump said. "But we have it, and we're going to do something about it. So I'm going to have a major announcement on that problem next week. We're going to be looking into Tom," he added.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is Trump's nominee to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

A joint Washington Post-"60 Minutes" investigation looked at legislation sponsored by Marino in 2014 that made it more difficult for the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop the diversion of pain pills to unscrupulous doctors and other distributors.

According to the Washington Post:

In the spring of 2016, a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was 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, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

Marino's bill, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch in the Senate, eventually passed and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016.

At Monday's news conference, a reporter asked President Trump if he'd seen the Oct. 15 "60 Minutes" segment, which said the nation's opioid crisis was fueled by the drug industry and Congress.



"I did see the report," Trump said. "We're going to look into the report. We're going to take it very seriously."

Trump noted that Tom Marino was a "very early supporter of mine."

"He's a great guy," Trump said. "I have not spoken to him, but I will speak to him, and I'll make that determination. And if I think it's -- I think -- if I think it's one-percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change, yes."


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday called on President Trump to withdraw Marino's nomination:

"Confirming Representative Marino as our nation's drug czar is like putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse. The American people deserve someone totally committed to fighting the opioid crisis, not someone who has labored on behalf of the drug industry," Schumer said.

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