The Trump administration has blocked letting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, testify before a House committee, saying such a move would be "counterproductive."
But the administration does plan to let him testify before the GOP-controlled Senate next week, at a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing scheduled for May 12.
"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 counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings," a White House spokesperson told the Washington Post on Friday. "We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time."
The House Appropriations Committee had requested that Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testify before its Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee about the pandemic response. Trump's new press secretary, Kaleigh McEnany, dismissed the request as a "publicity stunt."
On Monday, the administration told Fauci and the rest of the White House coronavirus task force that they may not testify before Congress this month without the express permission of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Legal experts questioned the administration blocking Fauci's testimony. Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe called the move "outrageous" and NBC legal analyst Maya Wiley called it an "unconstitutional obstruction of Congress."
Despite the pretense of protecting Fauci's time, the Trump administration has had Fauci attend dozens of press briefings, totaling more than 2,250 minutes, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — a time suck Fauci once called "really draining."
According to transcripts on the site Factba.se, Fauci has participated in at least 26 Trump coronavirus press conferences since late February. They ranged in length from 41 minutes to 143 minutes.
Fauci told the Associated Press that they involve significant preparation and waiting time. "If I had been able to just make a few comments and then go to work, that would have really been much better," he explained. "It isn't the idea of being there and answering questions, which I really think is important for the American public. It's the amount of time."
On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted: "The Democrats are just, as always, looking for trouble. They do nothing constructive, even in times of crisis. They don't want to blame their cash cow, China, for the plague. China is blaming Europe. Dr. Fauci will be testifying before the Senate very soon! #DONOTHINGDEMOCRATS."
Trump has frequently tried to claim the House Democratic majority does nothing, though it has passed hundreds of pieces of legislation awaiting action in the Senate.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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