Democratic chairman says White House blocked Navarro from testifying
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) on Monday said that the White House has blocked economic adviser Peter Navarro from testifying about his involvement in negotiating a now-canceled ventilator contract.
Krishnamoorthi, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said the White House responded in a “terse letter” to his request for Navarro’s testimony on the $646.7 million contract with Philips Respironics.
The letter dated Sept. 9 said Navarro would not provide testimony following a “long-standing Executive Branch precedent that presidential advisers generally do not testify in Congress.”
Krishnamoorthi’s subcommittee released a staff report in July that criticized the ventilator contract with Philips Respironics, saying the U.S. would overpay by more than $500 million.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ended the contract the following month, which the Illinois Democrat said saved taxpayers more than $400 million.
“Despite the astonishing scale of this waste; the loss of more than 190,000 lives; and his willingness to appear on the cable news shows of his choice—Mr. Navarro refuses to appear before Congress to answer for his actions,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. “While the hearing is now cancelled, I will continue to work to unearth the potential waste, fraud, and abuse.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The subcommittee chairman responded to the blocking of Navarro’s testimony by requesting in a Monday letter that HHS provide information and documents relating to any settlements the company received for the cancellation of the contracts. He also requested the same information about two smaller contracts with Hamilton Medical and Vyaire Medical.
“In terminating the contracts, HHS took an important step by publicly acknowledging and remedying hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars-worth of waste, fraud, and abuse,” he wrote in the letter. “However, I now need to ensure that the waste of taxpayer dollars on these ventilator contracts is truly addressed.”
The deadline for these documents is Sept. 24.
The White House has consistently blocked a number of administration officials from testifying in front of Congress, most notably during President Trump’s impeachment investigation and trial.
Steve Klink, a spokesman for Philips, said the company was not provided a “formal reason” for the contract cancellation. The contract will be terminated after the company delivers 12,300 ventilator configurations to the Strategic National Stockpile out of the 43,000 agreed upon.
The company’s CEO, Frans van Houten, released a statement after the subcommittee’s July report, saying, “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.”