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House Democrats renew probe into Trump administration's pandemic response

House Democrats renew probe into Trump administration's pandemic response
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are renewing an investigation into political interference in the nation's pandemic response by the Trump administration, requesting documents they allege have long been blocked by the previous administration.

In letters to White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainManchin throws cold water on using budget reconciliation Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024? White House says bills are bipartisan even if GOP doesn't vote for them MORE and acting head of Health and Human Services (HHS) Norris Cochran sent Monday, Democrats on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said the panel is continuing "critical investigations in the 117th Congress in order to understand what went wrong over the last year and determine what corrective steps are necessary to control the virus and save American lives."

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the panel's chairman, said the previous administration "refused to cooperate" with the subcommittee's inquiries. 

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He alleged the White House and other agencies blocked documents and witnesses "related to the politicization of public health information, testing and supply shortages, vaccine development and distribution, and other critical aspects of the nation’s virus response."

Specifically, Clyburn said the administration "failed to fully comply with two subpoenas and at least 20 document requests."

In newly released emails, former HHS scientific adviser Paul Alexander and former HHS assistant secretary Michael Caputo argued in favor of ending testing of “asymptomatic infections in low risk people.”

Alexander pushed to deliberately infect young, healthy people as a way to speed up "herd immunity," according to previous emails obtained by the subcommittee. 

According to the newest batch of releases, Alexander argued increased testing was causing infected people to quarantine, which was “preventing the workforce from working” and would not allow schools and colleges to “optimally re-open,” both of which were major priorities for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE.

The committee also alleged top political appointees "pressured Food and Drug Administration officials to quickly approve hydroxychloroquine, convalescent plasma, and other potential coronavirus treatments" and criticized scientists who objected to expedited approvals or shared "truthful information with the public."

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The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment.

In a statement, a White House spokesman said they are reviewing the letter.

"We appreciate Chairman Clyburn and the Select Subcommittee’s diligent work to help ensure an effective, science-driven pandemic response on the part of the United States government. The White House is focused on vaccinating the U.S. population efficiently and equitably and slowing the spread of COVID-19," the spokesman said.

Clyburn and committee Democrats requested documents and emails from dozens of former political officials as well as current career staffers who work on the pandemic response. 

They requested documents submitted by March 1, covering the period from Jan. 1, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021, related to the White House's coronavirus pandemic response, including weekly reports from the White House coronavirus task force.