House Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry into Trump's halting of WHO funds

House Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry into Trump's halting of WHO funds
© Greg Nash

The House committee charged with oversight of foreign affairs is launching an inquiry into the Trump administration’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) amid the coronavirus pandemic, the top Democrat on the panel announced Monday.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelEngel primary challenger hits million in donations Engel says he refuses to seek NYT endorsement over Cotton op-ed The Hill's Campaign Report: Republicans go on the hunt for new convention site MORE (D-N.Y.), in a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Pepper spray fired during Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong The Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed MORE, is demanding the State Department hand over records and information dealing with the decision to halt funding to the global health body.

The chairman is requesting the State Department provide communication between the agency, the White House and related institutions around the discussion to halt funding and its legal argument for the move, and stretching back to Dec. 1.

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Engel, in the letter, called the WHO an “imperfect” organization but said that that cutting funding to the world health agency at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19  is “counter productive and puts lives at risk.”

“The Administration’s explanation for this decision is inadequate, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs is determined to understand the reasons behind this self-defeating withdrawal from global leadership,” the chairman wrote.

Engel provided a deadline of May 4 for State to hand over the requested documents.

The U.S. is the largest individual country-donor to the WHO in both assessed and voluntary contributions, having provided up to $656 million for the organization's 2018-19 budget.

On April 14, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE announced a suspension of funding to the WHO for a period of 60 to 90 days, pending a review of the organization's leadership structure and response to the coronavirus.

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The president justified the funding cut by criticizing the WHO for being “China-centric” and saying the organization failed to address China’s responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic is counterproductive and puts lives at risk,” Engel wrote.

“Attacking the WHO, rather than the COVID-19 outbreak, will only worsen an already dire situation by undermining one of our key tools to fight the spreading disease,” he added.