Chairman Clyburn Releases Memo With New Evidence of Political Interference in Pandemic Response
Washington, D.C. (December 16, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a memo to Members of the Select Subcommittee citing new documents obtained in the Subcommittee’s investigation of political interference by senior Trump Administration appointees in the work of career officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The documents show that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) repeatedly discussed pursuing a “herd immunity” strategy and were aware that Administration policies were causing an increase in virus cases—but tried to hide the true danger of the virus and blame career scientists for the Administration’s failures.
“I am deeply troubled that, instead of promoting the best available science needed to keep Americans safe, the Trump Administration has played politics with a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 of our fellow Americans,” the Chairman stated. “The documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee show a pernicious pattern of political interference by Administration officials. As the virus spread through the country, these officials callously wrote, ‘who cares’ and ‘we want them infected.’ They privately admitted they ‘always knew’ the President’s policies would cause a ‘rise’ in cases, and they plotted to blame the spread of the virus on career scientists.”
“The documents released today reinforce the need for HHS to end its obstruction of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation into the political meddling that has hindered the nation’s response to this deadly virus. HHS must produce the critical documents and witnesses it is withholding, and CDC Director Robert Redfield must appear for an interview regarding evidence that he ordered CDC staff to delete a key email. Unless the Administration abandons this flagrant obstruction, I will be forced to start issuing subpoenas,” added the Chair.
HHS Official Promoted Spreading the Virus to Americans to Achieve Herd Immunity.
- HHS Senior Advisor Paul Alexander strategized with other top officials from HHS, CDC, and FDA about pursuing a herd immunity strategy in response to the coronavirus pandemic. For example, on July 3, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote: “So the bottom line is if it is more infectiouness [sic] now, the issue is who cares? If it is causing more cases in young, my word is who cares…as long as we make sensible decisions, and protect the elderely [sic] and nursing homes, we must go on with life….who cares if we test more and get more positive tests…”
- On July 4, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote: “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.”
- Also on July 4, 2020, Dr. Alexander stated: “Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…”
- On July 24, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo: “it may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected” as a strategy to get “natural immunity…natural exposure.”
Administration Officials Knew the President’s Policies Would Increase Spread of the Virus.
- Contradicting the rosy public statements from the White House and HHS, Dr. Alexander admitted privately that the Administration was aware its policies would not only fail to stop the spread of the virus, but would lead to an increase in cases. For example, on June 24, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote: “There is a rise in cases due to testing and also simultaneously due to the relaxing of restrictions, less social distancing. We always knew as you relax and open up, cases will rise…”
Appointees Sought to Downplay the Virus Threat to Help President Trump Win Reelection.
- On May 30, 2020, Dr. Alexander urged colleagues to suppress CDC hospitalization data showing about the risk posed by the virus to minority communities, because it could hurt President Trump in the 2020 election. He wrote: “if the communication is left with just the statement that minoring [sic] groups are at higher risk then on its face this is very accurate, however, in this election cycle that is the kind of statement coming from CDC that the media and Democrat [sic] antagonists will use against the president.”
- On June 24, 2020, Dr. Alexander discussed the “key message” to communicate to the public regarding the pandemic, noting: “We need also to tout the good stories as we know of elderly with serious conditions who get it and survive…this is key to tell…”
Administration Officials Tried to Discredit Scientists Who Provided Truthful Public Information.
- Dr. Alexander attempted to blame public health officials for the pandemic and tried to discredit scientists such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. For example, on June 29, 2020, Dr. Alexander baselessly accused scientists of trying to “destroy the nation and people’s lives just to make the President look bad…saving lives is not their aim…”
- On July 3, 2020, Dr. Alexander complained that Dr. Fauci had warned the public to “expect a dramatic increase in spread.” Dr. Alexander wrote: “He just wont stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He cant keep quiet….and he is not on the same page of the govn….does he think he is the President???” One week later, President Trump and other White House officials publicly attacked Dr. Fauci.
On September 14, 2020, the Select Subcommittee launched an investigation into political interference by senior Trump administration officials with the scientific reports and guidance issued by the CDC during the coronavirus crisis.
On December 10, 2020, Chairman Clyburn wrote to HHS Secretary Azar and CDC Director Redfield seeking immediate compliance with the Select Subcommittee’s investigation after a witness revealed that career CDC officials were directed to destroy evidence of political interference in the CDC’s work, and HHS cancelled four other witness interviews. Chairman Clyburn requested a transcribed interview with Director Redfield and warned that failure to make a complete production of all remaining responsive documents by December 15, 2020, would force the Select Subcommittee to issue subpoenas to compel production.
Click here to read today’s memo.
Click here to read the documents released by the Select Subcommittee.