Congress Issues Surprise Subpoenas For 2 Top Trump Officials

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The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) leads, has issued subpoenas targeting top Trump administration officials including Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief Dr. Robert Redfield. The committee issued its demands for the documents amidst its investigation into political interference in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter, the House COVID panel said that across four months, “as coronavirus cases and deaths rose around the country, Trump Administration appointees attempted to alter or block at least 13 scientific reports related to the virus,” which constitutes a galling attempt to shape public health policy to political wishes.

Clyburn observed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “has made clear that it will not provide a timely and complete response to the Select Subcommittee’s requests on a voluntary basis,” which is just the latest stonewalling effort from the Trump administration in response to an attempted Congressional investigation. Clyburn said that the committee is seeking the documents in order to understand “who in the Trump administration was responsible for this political pressure campaign, whether it was intended to cripple the nation’s coronavirus response in a misguided effort to achieve herd immunity, and what steps must be taken to end this outrageous conduct and protect American lives.”

Although neither of the figures are presently on the job, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo and his top adviser Paul Alexander led the fight to shape the CDC’s COVID-19 response towards the administration’s political wishes. Recently, Clyburn revealed that CDC official Charlotte Kent told Congressional investigators that she’d received an order to delete an email from Alexander in which the then-official demanded a change to one of the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Reports (MMWRs), which Kent leads as editor-in-chief.

Although that particular report, which covered the risk to children from COVID-19, was not changed in response to Alexander’s demands, the political pressure campaign went on from that point. In Alexander’s email in question, he insinuated that CDC officials were purposefully trying to make Trump look bad with their pronouncements about the virus, an idea for which there’s simply no legitimate supporting evidence at all. Separately, Alexander also advocated for relying on herd immunity for responding to COVID-19, which would have entailed an uncontrolled spread of the virus and untold levels of suffering likely beyond current levels. An unmitigated spread of the virus would likely have also even further overwhelmed the nation’s struggling health care system.

Meanwhile, besides the report about the risk to children from COVID-19, political officials also targeted CDC reports about hydroxychloroquine, cloth face coverings, and work to mitigate COVID-19’s spread during the April 7 primary election in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Throughout the pandemic, President Donald Trump has worked feverishly to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19, and most recently, he’s seemed far more concerned with his delusional fight against the election outcome than the suffering that’s continuing to spread across the country as the virus spreads.