Because President Donald Trump appears to prioritize getting back at his political opponents above protecting the health and safety of the public amidst the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, he recently announced plans to halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) for 60 to 90 days. His excuse for the funding suspension was the organization’s supposedly China-centric behavior that supposedly gave too much credence to authorities in China, where the virus first emerged, although Trump himself touted supposed Chinese efforts against the virus in the early days. Now, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) has announced an investigation into the WHO funding suspension.
The United States contributed up to $656 million out of the WHO’s 2018-2019 budget. Although Engel noted that the organization is “imperfect,” he insisted that the funding suspension is “counter productive and puts lives at risk.” In his letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that revealed his committee’s investigation, Engel added:
‘President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic is counterproductive and puts lives at risk… Attacking the WHO, rather than the COVID-19 outbreak, will only worsen an already dire situation by undermining one of our key tools to fight the spreading disease… The Administration’s explanation for this decision is inadequate, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs is determined to understand the reasons behind this self-defeating withdrawal from global leadership.’
INBOX: House Foreign Affairs probes Pompeo on Trump's decision to halt World Health Organization funding.
While WHO may be "imperfect," Chairman @RepEliotEngel adds: "The Administration’s response, on the other hand, has been calamitous."
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 27, 2020
Thus, the committee is demanding records from the State Department covering communications between the department, the White House, and any related agencies about possibly suspending WHO funding since all the way back on December 1st of last year, right before the Coronavirus crisis started to heat up. Engel has given the State Department until May 4th to provide the documents that he’s after, although the Trump administration has stonewalled in the face of Congressional investigations so many times before that it’s unclear whether the Trump team might ever actually send the material.
Still, Engel’s letter announcing his committee’s investigation signals ground that Democrats can cover once the Coronavirus crisis passes and the damage that Trump inflicted can be assessed.
Trump’s suspension of WHO funding has already faced a whole lot of criticism. Ex-USAID official Jeremy Konyndyk, for instance, commented:
‘This is lunacy. Truly. The decision to pause funding to the org. that is coordinating the global fight against a pandemic in the middle of a pandemic is hugely damaging.’
Trump does not appear to care.
"This is lunacy. Truly," said ex-USAID official Jeremy Konyndyk of Trump's decision to cut WHO funding.
"The decision to pause funding to the org. that is coordinating the global fight against a pandemic in the middle of a pandemic is hugely damaging." https://t.co/ZQLLGHrztS
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 24, 2020
His scapegoating of the WHO distracts from his administration’s own abject failures to secure the needed medical support and supplies in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Last week, Engel’s committee issued the statement:
‘Committee Democrats call on President Trump to restore funding to the World Health Organization and warn against shifting blame to the @WHO in order to distract from the Trump Administration’s failed response to the #coronavirus pandemic.’
Tens of thousands of Americans have died from the Coronavirus, and thousands have died a day, but Trump just keeps glibly congratulating himself for a supposed job well done anyway.
#BREAKING: Committee Democrats call on President Trump to restore funding to the World Health Organization and warn against shifting blame to the @WHO in order to distract from the Trump Administration's failed response to the #coronavirus pandemic. pic.twitter.com/2FS2M6vDFu
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) April 23, 2020