House Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia

House Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia
© Getty Images

Top Democratic House committee heads on Friday demanded in a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE that he provide detailed reasoning behind his decision to send ventilators to Russia as part of a $5.6 million aid package.

The committee chairpersons raised concerns that the shipment of ventilators to Russia was done while the U.S. is still in a critical phase of responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and raised concerns Trump was sending ventilators overseas as "political favors."

The letter was signed by Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTop Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE (N.Y.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over Engel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (N.Y.) and Appropriations Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTop House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo's Jerusalem speech With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban Progressives look to flex their muscle in next Congress after primary wins MORE (N.Y.), as well as Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchOvernight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign's final stretch Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel after subpoena threat Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Mass.).

ADVERTISEMENT

“To be clear, we are not suggesting that the United States is not, or could never be, in a position to contribute ventilators and other critical medical supplies to countries that are truly in need,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We are deeply concerned with recent reports that you are providing critical, life-saving ventilators to Russia when they are urgently needed here in the United States to combat the coronavirus crisis and save American lives,” they added.

“The use of American taxpayer dollars to purchase and deliver ventilators overseas cannot and should not be used as political favors,” the letter also said.

The letter writers gave the president until June 4 to provide information to Congress about the administration’s process in evaluating medical shipments to other countries and the financing for those shipments.

The U.S. has had more recorded coronavirus cases and deaths than anywhere else in the world, approaching 100,000 fatalities and recording over 1.5 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

ADVERTISEMENT

Russia is now the country with the second highest rate of infection, with over 326,000 cases and 3,249 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins's most recent numbers.

The United States delivered 50 ventilators to Russia on Thursday, according to U.S. officials. The offer to send ventilators came during a telephone conversation between Trump and Russia President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny calls on Russia to return clothes he was wearing when he fell ill Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Putin is about to turn his attention to the American way of life MORE earlier this month.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that 150 more ventilators are being produced by the manufacturer, Vyaire Medical in California, and will be donated to the Pirogov National Medical and Surgical Center in Moscow.

 

"The United States has assisted many countries during their worst periods of COVID-19 and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. “Speedy delivery is critical for the Russian people in desperate need of these ventilators.”

The U.S. had in April accepted a shipment of 60 tons of medical supplies from Russia that included ventilators that were handed over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for storage “out of an abundance of caution,” the spokesperson said, as the same model reportedly caused a fire in a Moscow hospital and led to the death of six people.

“Thankfully, the flattening curve meant these ventilators were not needed. The ventilators have not been deployed to hospitals,” the spokesperson said.

Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said at the time the U.S. would pay half the price of the medical supplies while the other half of the cost was covered by the Russian Direct Investment fund, but it’s unclear if the U.S. ever settled the bill with the Russian government.

The State Department directed questions to the White House and FEMA over the cost of the Russian shipment and if payment was sent. The White House and FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

—Updated at 3:48 p.m.