Menendez demands info on administration communications with WHO

Menendez demands info on administration communications with WHO
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers Democratic senator proposes sanctions against Putin over bounties GOP lawmakers voice support for Israeli plan to annex areas in West Bank MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday called for information on the Trump administration’s communications with the World Health Organization (WHO) early on during the coronavirus pandemic.

Menendez wrote in his letter that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE did not declare a national emergency until March despite warnings in early January from the WHO, an organization Trump has attacked and moved to defund as the U.S. outbreak has grown.

“As Congress bolsters the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares against any future waves of infection, it also must assess the actions the Trump administration, China, and the international community took that helped or hampered our initial response,” he wrote. “We must have all the facts about U.S. government engagement, communication, and information-sharing with its international partners during the early phases of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

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In the letter to U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Andrew Bremberg, Menendez called for details on when the Bremberg’s office first communicated with both the White House and the WHO about the outbreak in Wuhan, China, as well as what information the mission communicated to the State Department.

Menendez also asked for further details on the decision process to halt U.S. contributions to the WHO and what role Bremberg played in the funding review. The New Jersey Democrat asked for information on any analysis Bremberg's office conducted on how the funding cut could affect the WHO’s coronavirus response.

Menendez’s letter notes that the administration is reportedly considering carve-outs for polio and coronavirus in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and asks whether any other exceptions are under consideration.

Trump announced at least a 60-day suspension of U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing the group of serious missteps in the early days of the pandemic and a pro-China bias more generally. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has already announced an investigation into the funds suspension.

“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,” Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOn The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm NY Working Families Party director on the state's primary House postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing MORE (D-N.Y.) wrote in an April 27 letter.