Joe Grogan, the top domestic policy adviser to President Donald Trump, who has played a key role in health policy and the coronavirus response, is set to leave the White House next month, he confirmed to POLITICO.
“I promised my wife two years and I’m in my fourth year,” said Grogan, who joined the Trump administration at the start of 2017 and said that he’s leaving on May 24 on good terms. “No one outworked me.”
Grogan said he had what he called a “great conversation” with President Donald Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as he began preparations to leave, and predicted that the Covid-19 outbreak would be hitting a lull by his departure.
Grogan, who’s served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council since last year, emerged as an influential figure on most key health policies, including drug pricing and the effort to ban “surprise” medical bills. He more recently has been involved with the response to the coronavirus pandemic, pushing for the Domestic Policy Council to be included in the federal response and calling for additional testing in February, as the virus silently spread. But he also battled with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and health officials have blamed Grogan for a series of damaging leaks about Azar’s leadership.
Grogan said his departure had “nothing to do with Azar.” The Wall Street Journal first reported Grogan’s departure.
Grogan had told lawmakers on Capitol Hill and some aides that he’s planned to leave this spring, two individuals with knowledge of the situation said. “He’s been very clear since December, when he negotiated the omnibus, that he would stay until [late May] to get drug pricing, surprise billing and the health extenders done,” said a White House official with knowledge of Grogan’s plans.
Grogan, who previously served as a top official in the Office of Management and Budget, is a close ally of Mick Mulvaney, who was replaced as White House acting chief of staff last month. POLITICO reported earlier this month that Grogan’s departure was expected after the arrival of Meadows. Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Grogan previously worked as a lobbyist for the drugmaker Gilead, which has been in the news for its experimental drug remdesivir, which health officials on Wednesday touted as potentially the first effective coronavirus treatment. Yet inside the administration, Grogan emerged as a critic of the pharmaceutical industry and has been among those trying to make good on Trump’s campaign vow to slash drug costs.
That effort was marred by infighting, with Grogan sharply opposing a major HHS regulatory initiative to effectively eliminate rebates from government drug plans over concerns it would be too expensive and politically damaging.
Grogan instead sought to strike a legislative deal with House Democratic leaders. But those talks fell apart last year amid impeachment, leaving the administration scrambling to reset its drug price agenda while House Democrats passed sweeping legislation on their own that would allow the government to negotiate the cost of certain medicines. The Republican-led Senate did not back that approach.
As the president’s top policy aide, Grogan frequently warred with Azar but often sided with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma as the three officials shaped large elements of Trump’s health policy agenda. Grogan also took a hard line as a staunch budget hawk and often bristled at proposals seen as propping up Obamacare.
Over roughly a year at the helm of the Domestic Policy Council, Grogan put a particular focus on recruiting policy staffers into the White House, in what associates said he viewed in part as an attempt to groom the next generation of conservative policy stars.
He also played a central role in crafting early health care messaging for Trump’s reelection campaign, which has abandoned the president’s early promises of repealing Obamacare in favor of a focus on boosting consumer choice and competition, and policy reforms outside of the insurance markets such as the administration’s overhaul of kidney care.
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.