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Pelosi slams White House for blocking coronavirus task force members from testifying: 'They might be afraid of the truth'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday blasted the White House's move to restrict officials leading the nation's coronavirus response from testifying before Congress, suggesting that the Trump administration "might be afraid of the truth." 

The Trump administration on Monday issued new guidance instructing coronavirus task force members not to accept invitations to participate in congressional hearings this month unless approved by White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE. The move came after the White House late last week blocked Anthony FauciAnthony FauciScott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge Rand Paul says Fauci owes parents and students an apology over pandemic measures MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, from testifying before a House committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday. 

Pelosi said Congress needs to hear from officials handling the COVID-19 response to help lawmakers determine how resources should be allocated in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation.

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"The fact is that we need to allocate resources for this. In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House. And we have to have the information to act upon," Pelosi said during an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." 

Pelosi added that Meadows, who recently resigned from Congress to serve as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE's latest chief of staff, knows House Democrats will be "very, very strictly insisting on the truth."

"And they might be afraid of the truth," Pelosi said.

She panned the move as “business as usual” for the Trump administration, which has blocked witnesses from testifying before the Democratic-led House on numerous other occasions, such as last year’s impeachment inquiry into the president’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political opponents. 

The White House said it is limiting officials' appearances before Congress so they can focus on response efforts instead of spending hours preparing for and giving sworn testimony on Capitol Hill.

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“The demands on agencies’ staff and resources are extraordinary in this current crisis. Agencies must maximize their resources for COVID-19 response efforts and treat hearing requests accordingly,” the guidance says.

“Given these competing demands in these unprecedented times, it is reasonable to expect that agencies will have to decline invitations to hearings to remain focused on implementing of COVID-19 response, including declining to participate in multiple hearings on the same or overlapping topics,” it adds.

The White House blocked Fauci from testifying before the Democratic-controlled House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services. But Fauci is expected to appear before the GOP-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee later this month.

The House Appropriations subcommittee will instead hear from Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The new White House guidance came as the Trump administration began projecting that the number of coronavirus cases and deaths would continue climbing, with up to 3,000 deaths per day by June 1, even as the president has encouraged states to start lifting restrictions.

Pelosi also defended the decision she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Ky.) made to turn down the Trump administration's offer for a rapid testing system on Capitol Hill so the tests can be allocated toward front-line workers instead.

"I don't know there's one member of Congress who says, 'I want to have a test before my constituent who really needs one gets one because I should be more important than that.' And I was very pleased that we were able to do that in a bipartisan way," Pelosi told Blitzer.