The White House reportedly is blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, from testifying before Congress.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said the panel sought Fauci’s testimony for a hearing next week as it investigates the coronavirus outbreak and response, but the request was denied. That denial came from the White House, the committee was told by administration officials.
Fauci and Trump have clashed at times over how the government should proceed with its response to the pandemic, with Fauci preferring a more cautious approach and the president eager to reopen the economy. Tensions reportedly flared as well on the occasions that Fauci publicly disagreed with or corrected the president.
And while Fauci was initially a strong presence during the White House’s daily press briefings, The Post noted that he was featured less frequently as time went on.
With the Trump administration’s top infectious disease expert made unavailable, the House reportedly will hear from former Centers of Disease Control and Prevention head Thomas Frieden, who led the agency during the Obama administration.
The Post reported that it has been weeks since Congress held public hearings, despite having passed massive spending bills that now have little oversight. Both chambers have been effectively closed since last month, with lawmakers returning only periodically to vote on legislation.
“Democrats are eager to return to conducting oversight of the massive spending and the administration’s response, and multiple House committees are likely to seek testimony from administration officials in coming weeks,” the newspaper reported. It remains unclear whether the White House will again step in to bar officials from speaking.