The White House is blocking epidemic expert Anthony Fauci from testifying before a congressional committee next week, less than two months after Fauci critiqued the nation’s coronavirus testing system during a public hearing.
The House Appropriations Committee had sought Fauci’s testimony at a Wednesday subcommittee hearing to look into the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 65,000 Americans.
“We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying,” committee spokesman Evan Hollander said Friday.
A White House spokesman said the administration is busy fighting the spread of the coronavirus, re-opening the economy, and seeking a vaccine, so “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,” spokesman Judd Deere said.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a March 12 House hearing that the nation’s coronavirus testing system was not what it should be.
“The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for,” Fauci said. “That is a failing.”
Instead of Fauci, the House committee will hear next week from Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Congress and the American public deserve a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., who serves as the committee chairwoman, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the subcommittee, said in a joint statement.
In the short term, that entails what the federal government is doing on surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantining, social distancing, and the production and distribution of personal protective equipment.
Long term, Americans need assurance that “lasting investments in our public health infrastructure are made instead of reacting to public health crises when they arise,” the chairwomen said. “The people of this country deserve a federal government that is up-to-date, modernized and prepared to protect lives.”
Critics said the White House is seeking to silence Fauci, citing news reports that officials have prevented him from appearing at news briefings.
“Hearing that Fauci will ‘take a back seat’ makes me more determined than ever to elect Joe Biden,” tweeted Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., accused Trump of imposing a “gag order” on Fauci.
“His excuse? That it would be ‘counterproductive,'” Van Hollen tweeted. “Translation: he doesn’t want the public to hear the full truth, like ‘don’t inject disinfectants’ or ‘we need more rapid testing.’ Free Fauci!”
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