WH Blocks COVID Task Force Members From Testifying Before Congress Without Permission

President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speak during the daily coronavirus ... President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speak during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The White House has ordered officials on the White House coronavirus task force to seek permission from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before accepting Congress’ request for testimony, a senior administration official confirmed to TPM via email on Tuesday.

Per a White House memo to task force leaders obtained by the Washington Post, officials are prohibited from testifying without Meadows’ “express approval.”

The White House has also limited the number of hearings on COVID-19 that officials at the Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and State Departments may attend this month to four.

The restrictions are to ensure that the officials’ energy is focused on defeating the virus, according to the memo.

“Given these competing demands in these unprecedented times, it is reasonable to expect that agencies will have to decline invitations to hearings to remain focused on implementing of COVID-19 response, including declining to participate in multiple hearings on the same or overlapping topics,” the White House told the task force officials.

The senior administration official who confirmed the guidelines to TPM brushed off concerns about transparency “given the continual press briefings and agency-led briefings with committees.”

“But we need to make sure the Task Force members have the time they need to focus on the task at hand, not on preparing for four-hour hearings several times a week,” the official said.

The stated rationale echoes the White House’s explanation for not allowing Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the task force, to testify in front of a House subcommittee led by Democrats last Wednesday.

“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in an emailed statement to TPM last week.

However, Meadows has permitted Fauci and others to testify in front of the GOP-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee next week on Tuesday.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriter:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: