Rep. Maloney, Select Subcommittee Launch Investigation Into Political Interference in CDC Scientific Reports on Coronavirus
Washington, DC — Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, joined with her Democratic colleagues of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by Chairman James E. Clyburn, in launching an investigation into efforts by the Trump Administration to block the publication of accurate scientific reports related to the Coronavirus crisis. The members sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield requesting transcribed interviews and documents in response to this inquiry.
“With nearly 200,000 Americans killed and hundreds more dying each day from the coronavirus pandemic, the public needs and deserves truthful scientific information so they can keep themselves and their families healthy,” the Members wrote. “Yet in discussing the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, President Trump admitted, ‘I wanted to always play it down’ and, ‘I still like playing it down.’ We are gravely concerned by reports showing that the President’s political appointees at HHS have sought to help him downplay the risks of the coronavirus crisis by attempting to alter, delay, and block critical scientific reports from CDC.
“Given the crucial and pressing need for truthful scientific information during this ongoing public health crisis, the Select Subcommittee is seeking to determine the scope of political interference with CDC’s scientific reports and other efforts to combat the pandemic, the impact of this interference on CDC’s mission, whether this interference is continuing, and the steps that Congress may need to take to stop it before more Americans die needlessly,” the Members continued.
Trump Administration officials reportedly began seeking to influence CDC reports, known as Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), after a May 2020 report on the coronavirus accurately described the “rapid acceleration of transmission during March” and warned that “a large proportion of the population remains susceptible” and “the potential for future acceleration remains.”
Political appointees at HHS, including Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo and senior advisor Paul Alexander, have reportedly been especially focused on suppressing truthful CDC reports on risks to children. In an email, Dr. Alexander called for CDC to alter a report on the virus’s impact on children or “pull it down and stop all reports immediately.” He claimed without evidence that the scientific report was “designed to hurt this Presidnet [sic].”
The Select Subcommittee asked HHS and CDC to confirm by September 16, 2020, that the following officials will appear voluntarily for transcribed interviews:
· Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director, CDC
· Charlotte Kent, MMWR Editor-in-Chief, CDC
· Nina Witkofsky, Acting Chief of Staff, CDC
· Trey Moeller, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, CDC
· Kate Galatas, Acting Associate Director for Communication, CDC
· Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, HHS
· Michael Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, HHS
The letter also requested the production of documents by September 28, 2020.
Click here to read today’s letter.