- The White House has barred its coronavirus task force from testifying to Congress this month about its activities.
- An internal memo leaked to CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and RealClearPolitics said: “For the month of May, no Task Force members, or key deputies of Task Force members, may accept hearing invitations.”
- Last week, the White House had already barred the leading task force member Anthony Fauci from appearing at a House subcommittee hearing scheduled for this Wednesday.
- The House panel is set to investigate the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. More than 67,000 Americans have died so far, with the number set to rise further.
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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.
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.
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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