The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), has released a new tranche of materials outlining corruption within the Trump administration amid some of the earliest attempts to substantively respond to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. Clyburn has also reiterated his call for Dr. Robert Redfield, who led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the Trump era, to sit for a transcribed interview with the committee.
As explained by a press release from the committee, it’s now released “new evidence of Trump Administration officials’ repeated efforts to thwart the CDC’s scientific work during the pandemic following interviews with more than half a dozen current and former CDC and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials.” Those who were interviewed include former CDC Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. Nancy Messonnier, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and others.
During an attention-grabbing press briefing in February of 2020, Messonnier warned observers regarding the then-impending, serious spread of COVID-19 that it wasn’t “so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when.” According to that committee press release, Messonnier “informed the Select Subcommittee that she received phone calls from then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Dr. Redfield following this briefing and that she felt “upset” by these conversations,” and “Multiple officials confirmed that the Trump White House blocked CDC’s requests to conduct public briefings for more than three months following the February 25 briefing.” Trump has been reported to have been “angered” by the remarks that Messonnier offered at that February briefing.
The Trump administration’s subsequent attempts to accommodate Trump’s political concerns put the American public in danger. For example, a CDC official informed the committee how “the Office of the Vice President refused CDC’s request to hold a briefing in early April 2020 that would have shared information on the state of the pandemic, a new CDC recommendation to wear cloth face coverings, and new evidence of pediatric cases and deaths from the coronavirus,” as explained by the press release — and while these pieces of information may have percolated out through other means, time was of the essence. Who got ill and potentially died that could have been saved by a greater understanding of options to protect themselves? Are former members of the Trump administration willing to accept responsibility for these damaging, deadly outcomes?
That committee press release also outlined how “Dr. Scott Atlas, former Special Advisor to then-President Trump, was involved in making changes to CDC’s testing guidance, which was abruptly changed on August 24, 2020, to assert—contrary to scientific consensus—that most asymptomatic people should not be tested even if they were exposed to someone with the virus” — and although the guidance was eventually changed back, it’s another instance of how the Trump administration’s political machinations threatened to leave Americans to basically fend for themselves. Testing for COVID-19 decreased dramatically after the Atlas-backed guidance changes were implemented. Read and check out more here.