The Slatest

The White House Blocks Fauci From Testifying Before House, but Senate Appears To Be OK

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks next to Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, during a meeting with President Donald Trump and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards D-LA in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2020.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks next to Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

The White House doesn’t want Anthony Fauci to testify before a House subcommittee investigating the coronavirus outbreak and response, arguing it would not be the right way for the key official to use his time in the middle of a pandemic. But apparently appearing before the GOP-controlled Senate is a completely different matter.

“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 spokesman Judd Deere said. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.” Deere issued the statement shortly after the Washington Post published a piece that quoted a spokesman for the House Appropriation s Committee saying the White House was not allowing Fauci to appear at a subcommittee hearing next week.

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“The Appropriations Committee sought Dr. Anthony Fauci as a witness at next week’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on COVID-19 response,” Evan Hollander, the panel’s spokesman, said. “We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying.”

A senior administration official rejected that preventing Fauci’s testimony had anything to do with wanting to keep the doctor whose profile has grown exponentially during the pandemic from revealing information that could be damaging to the White House. “It’s not muzzling, it’s not blocking, it’s simply trying to ensure we’re able to balance the need for oversight, the legitimate need for oversight, with their responsibilities to handle COVID-19 work at their respective agencies and departments,” the official said.

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Yet apparently those same concerns do not exist for Fauci’s scheduled appearance at the GOP-led Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions on May 12. “Chairman Alexander looks forward to hearing from Dr. Fauci and other administration officials at the Senate health committee’s second hearing back, which will be on Tuesday, May 12,” reads a statement from a spokesperson for Sen. Lamar Alexander.

And the concerns about Fauci’s time did not prevent him and other top officials from appearing before a House Oversight Committee hearing on March 11 and 12 over the coronavirus response. At the time, the United States only had 1,000 reported coronavirus cases, compared to more than one million now.

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One of the reasons the unnamed administration official who talked to the Post cited in preventing Fauci from testifying in the House had to do with the risks to health of walking around in public places. Yet Trump doesn’t seem to be so concerned about the health of lawmakers and their staff considering he supported the move to get the Senate to reconvene on Monday, even though all 100 senators will not be able to be screened for the virus. “There is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital Hill on Monday,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, misspelling Capitol. The president went on to call Speaker Nancy Pelosi “crazy” for not recalling the House of Representatives.

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