After the Trump White house blocked the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before a House of Representatives committee investigating the administration’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic at a meeting this coming week, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that the doctor, a member of the administration’s coronavirus task force, would be appearing before the Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions in the Republican-led Senate on May 12.
“Chairman Alexander looks forward to hearing from Dr. Fauci and other administration officials at the Senate health committee’s second hearing back, which will be on Tuesday, May 12,” Senator Alexander said in a statement.
The announcement is a prime example of the hypocrisy and partisanship of Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis, particularly since White House spokesman Judd Deere had previously said in a statement that it would be “counter-productive” to the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response for Fauci and other top officials to spend their valuable time on testifying before Congress to discuss the government’s actions in relation to the pandemic when they are so busy handling the crisis,
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings. We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time,” Deere said.
Presumably, the appropriate time to speak to a Democratic-led committee would be when the virus has miraculously disappeared as the president has suggested it would have already done by now as the weather has warmed up, or when the statute of limitations has expired, whichever comes first.
Testifying before a committee controlled by Republican allies, however, apparently faces no such constraints or concerns about the most valuable use of his time and energy during this crucial time in the federal government’s response to the pandemic as states weigh reopening their economies prematurely and risking a second wave of rising infections.
The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee that supervises the Department of Health and Human Services had requested that Dr. Fauci — who is now a household name through his appearances at the Pandemic Task Force briefings that Trump has commandeered and turned into mini-campaign rallies for his re-election — testify this coming Wednesday.
“The Appropriations Committee sought Dr. Anthony Fauci as a witness at next week’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on COVID-19 response,” Evan Hollander, the panel’s spokesman, told ABC News. “We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying.”
House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the chair of the subcommittee that requested Fauci’s testimony, objected to the blocking of the leading government epidemiologist’s testimony and said the American people and Congress “deserve a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic already viewed by a majority of Americans as too little and too late and marred by the president’s dissemination of misleading information, the efforts to block accountability before a panel led by the opposing party should come as no surprise coming from a president who has disclaimed responsibility at every available opportunity.
Original reporting by Benjamin Siegel at ABC News.
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