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House panel opens probe of Navarro over $646M ventilator contract cancellation

House panel opens probe of Navarro over $646M ventilator contract cancellation
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A House committee will investigate the White House over contract negotiations related to the COVID-19 pandemic response after the federal government abruptly canceled a $646 million contract for ventilators on Monday.

Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiTrust and transparency are necessary to make COVID-19 vaccine successful Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrat asks intelligence director if Trump's personal debt is security problem MORE (D-Ill.) told CNBC on Monday that the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy would investigate contracts negotiated by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and said that the contract represented an example of a company taking advantage of the federal government with Navarro's help.

The company in question, Philips Respironics, confirmed the end of its contract with the federal government on Monday, CNBC reported.

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“Under the management of Peter Navarro, Senior Advisor to President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE, the administration was taken advantage of by Philips Respironics when negotiating the price of life-saving ventilators," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement to CNBC.

“American taxpayers just saved over $400 million dollars after my subcommittee shined a spotlight on just one of the Trump Administration’s wasteful contracts for COVID-19 supplies,” he continued. “My subcommittee will continue to press Philips to repay the remaining money it owes the federal government. We will also be requesting documentation from all the contracts that Peter Navarro has negotiated regarding Covid-19 response.”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.

The Trump administration worked earlier this year to sign contracts with numerous companies for the production of ventilators and other necessary equipment in the face of nationwide shortages that vexed hospitals and other companies seeking personal protective equipment as the pandemic hit U.S. shores.

A report issued by Krishnamoorthi's committee in July found that Navarro had agreed that the U.S. would pay $15,000 per ventilator produced by Philips Respironics, far higher than the amount paid to any other American manufacturer.

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“The Trump Administration’s mishandling of ventilator procurement for the nation’s stockpile cost the American people dearly during the worst public health crisis of our generation,” he said in late July. “Not only did the Administration jeopardize the health and safety of the American people — but it squandered more than half-a-billion dollars that could have been used to better support our nation’s crisis response efforts.”

Frans van Houten, the company's CEO, defended the contract at the time and claimed that the company had not raised prices amid the pandemic.

"We do not recognize the conclusions in the subcommittee’s report, and we believe that not all the information that we provided has been reflected in the report," he said in a statement.