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Trump trade adviser declines House invitation to testify on whistleblower complaint

Trump trade adviser declines House invitation to testify on whistleblower complaint
© Greg Nash

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro won't be testifying before a House subcommittee on Thursday about a whistleblower complaint that mentions him multiple times.

“The White House is declining the invitation for Peter Navarro to testify based on the longstanding precedent, followed by administrations of both political parties, rooted in clearly established constitutional doctrines, and supported by the Department of Justice, that senior advisors to the President generally do not testify before Congress,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Tuesday.

Navarro is the latest Trump administration official to find himself in the crosshairs of a congressional committee, as lawmakers try to gauge and assess the White House's response to the coronavirus.

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Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, wrote Navarro a letter on May 7 asking him to testify in front of her panel, according to The Washington Post.

Navarro would have joined Rick Bright, who authored the whistleblower complaint. Bright was formerly the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), serving in the position until late April when he was moved to a different position.

Eshoo told the Post that Navarro "is a key figure in Dr. Bright’s whistleblower complaint and is a high-level authority in the Trump administration who took Dr. Bright’s warnings seriously. It’s unfortunate the administration is not willing to make witnesses available to the House.”

"Congress and the American people would benefit from hearing a complete account from witnesses included in Dr. Bright’s complaint to better understand what was needed in the early days of this public health crisis to protect the American people and our nation’s health care workers," she said.

Bright's report says he was moved out of his role and into a lesser role in after he attempted to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency” by raising concerns over a medication that was being pushed by the president as a potential cure for the virus.

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Bright’s complaint states that Navarro “clearly shared Dr. Bright’s concerns about the potential devastation the United States would face from the coronavirus and asked Dr. Bright to identify the supply chain and medical countermeasures most critical to address at that time,” with Navarro requesting Bright do so in February.

Bright also said that he balked at the Department of Health and Human Services's desire to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — a pair of anti-viral drugs that were previously touted by Trump as treatments for the virus — widely available, describing them as “potentially harmful drugs."

An HHS spokesperson declined the Post's request for comment, Eshoo told the paper that she had also invited Alex Azar, secretary of the agency, and Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, to testify on Thursday.

A White House official told the paper that neither Azar or Kadlec plan on attending the hearing.