The White House has barred its coronavirus task force from testifying to Congress as a House panel gears up to investigate the government's pandemic response

Associated PressThe leading White House coronavirus task force members Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx in the Oval Office last Wednesday.

The White House has barred all members of its coronavirus task force from testifying to Congress this month about the government’s response to the outbreak.

“For the month of May, no Task Force members, or key deputies of Task Force members, may accept hearing invitations,” said a memo from the White House Office of Legislative Affairs leaked to CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and RealClearPolitics on Monday.

“Exceptions may be made only with the express approval of the White House Chief of Staff,” it continued, according to The Journal.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on labour, health and human services, education, and related agencies is set to meet this Wednesday to discuss the government’s response to the crisis.

The US has the most reported coronavirus cases of any country. More than 67,000 Americans have died, unemployment is rocketing, and small businesses are struggling to keep afloat.

Donald Trump coronavirus task forceAlex Wong/Getty ImagesSecretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence at a coronavirus task force briefing.

An unnamed senior administration official told CNN that the ban on testifying was necessary “to make sure the task force members have the time they need to focus on the task at hand, not on preparing for four-hour hearings several times a week.”

The memo reportedly said members of other federal agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services, could still attend hearings.

The task force consists of 22 officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, the coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Last week, the White House had already blocked Fauci from appearing in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee.

“It is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” Judd Deere, the deputy White House press secretary, said at the time.

Trump/FauciREUTERS/Jonathan ErnstTrump, Pence, and Fauci at a White House coronavirus briefing on March 20.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has slammed the White House’s move, telling CNN: “I was hoping they would spend more time on the crisis instead of those daily shows that the president put on,” referring to the daily White House coronavirus press briefings, which have been held less often in the past week.

“We will be very strictly insisting on the truth, and they might be afraid of the truth,” she said.

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, on Saturday said Fauci and others would “absolutely” be allowed to testify before other House committees in the future, according to CNN.

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