Warren, Blumenthal, and Markey urge CARES Act Inspectors General to investigate political interference in Trump administration's COVID-19 response
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Trump Administration's "failures have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, and threaten to leave the country with an unabated tragedy"
Presenting new evidence revealing President Trump and his advisors have repeatedly put their partisan political interests ahead of the health and welfare of the American people, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) urged the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) to open an investigation of the Trump Administration's politicization of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response effort.
"We continue to be alarmed that President Trump is allowing partisanship to guide crucial decisions instead of expert public health advice, and we therefore ask that you expand your investigation of President Trump's profoundly troubling COVID-19 response to include these newly reported incidents," wrote the senators.
President Trump's politicization of the coronavirus public health emergency constitutes a major economic and public health threat that could affect every program and agency involved in the pandemic response. The senators raised the following concerns:
- Political considerations have contributed to the Trump Administration's failure to implement a national testing strategy. Recent reports indicate that a comprehensive national testing plan developed by the White House was shelved after White House officials, including those close to President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, concluded that the pandemic was primarily affecting Democratic states, and therefore could be blamed on Democratic governors.
"Instead of coordinating a national strategy to make testing and the delivery of test results quick, free, and accessible across the country...the federal government has repeatedly abdicated its responsibility to manage the country's testing infrastructure, deepening our national emergency and costing lives," wrote the senators.
- President Trump has favored political allies in his response to this public health emergency. President Trump initially agreed to pay the full cost of National Guard troops deployed to support the pandemic response in only two states, Florida and Texas, because their governors made "special, direct cases to the President." The National Governors Association reported that governors across the country had asked for the same arrangement, including in states with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, but the only requests granted initially were those from Texas and Florida, which had voted for President Trump in the 2016 election and whose governors enjoy a close personal and political relationship with the President. This incident echoes reports from earlier this spring that governors who had a close relationship with President Trump and vulnerable senators up for reelection in the fall were being prioritized for supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
- The Administration has exerted significant political pressure on public health agencies. In April, Vice President Pence reportedly ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove announcement of an extension of its "No Sail" order, which prohibited cruise ship voyages, from its website. In May, the administration reportedly shelved draft Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for churches and other places of worship. In July, President Trump and Vice President Pence once again exerted public pressure on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise its guidelines, this time for schools. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also faced significant political pressure from the Trump Administration and recently had to revoke a rushed Emergency Use Authority granted for hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment. The former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Dr. Rick Bright has since filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that he was demoted because he resisted pressure from the White House to direct resources toward this unproven and ineffective treatment. Earlier this week, again amidst political pressure from President Trump, U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a troubling Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma. And President Trump has already floated the idea that a vaccine could be ready before Election Day — indicating that the Administration may continue to exert political pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The senators concluded that the Administration's "repeated prioritization of President Trump's political interests calls into question the integrity of every action of the federal government. These failures have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, and threaten to leave the country with an unabated tragedy. It will be impossible to develop an effective federal response until this partisan interference is addressed and public trust can be restored." They urged the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to immediately undertake a comprehensive investigation of partisan and political interference in the Trump Administration's response to the pandemic.