Trump's HHS declines to provide witnesses for hearing on family separations

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is declining to provide witnesses for a House hearing next week on the administration’s treatment of migrant children at the border.

HHS said in a statement that House Democrats did not give them enough time to prepare for the hearing before the House Appropriations health subcommittee, which is scheduled to occur Wednesday and examine the administration’s controversial separations of migrant children from their parents at the border.

The back and forth over testifying comes as House Democrats ramp up their oversight of the Trump administration now that they are in the majority, with family separations one of the top areas of focus.

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“Their request did not adhere to the longstanding two-week notification precedent and did not provide adequate time to prepare the witnesses for testimony,” said HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley. “HHS has worked to be responsive to the Subcommittee’s request and has offered alternative hearing dates and alternative witnesses. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee rejected those offerings.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroTrump faces new hit on deficit Top Democrats call for administration to rescind child migrant information sharing policy Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law MORE (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the subcommittee, responded that HHS refused to provide the two witnesses that she wanted: Scott Lloyd, former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of administration for children and families.

DeLauro said the alternative witnesses offered by HHS were not as involved in the family separation policy.

“HHS has still not confirmed it will allow public testimony from the senior officials who were in charge of the Unaccompanied Children program during the development and implementation of the family separation policy,” DeLauro said. “Those are the people who need to be questioned, not the officials who were brought in afterwards to clean up their mess after thousands of children were separated from their families.”

Another HHS official, Jonathan White, a commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, did testify before a different House committee earlier this month on family separations. He said he warned his superiors against the policy.

Lloyd and White are also slated to testify at a separate hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday about family separations.

DeLauro, whose subcommittee funds HHS, said she will keep up her oversight.

“Along with my colleagues, we will get to the bottom of the Trump administration’s policy of government-sanctioned child abuse and persist in holding those who implemented this cruel policy accountable,” DeLauro said.

HHS noted that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will also be testifying before DeLauro’s subcommittee in March on the budget, and will be available then to answer other questions as well.