Chairman Clyburn’s Opening Statement at Hearing with Former Trump White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx

Jun 23, 2022
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2022) – Below is Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James E. Clyburn’s opening statement, as delivered, for today’s hearing with Former Trump White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

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Opening Statement
Chairman James E. Clyburn

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis
A Hearing with Former Trump White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx
June 23, 2022

As President Biden declared earlier this year in his State of the Union address, the coronavirus, and I quote, “need no longer control our lives.”  We have been able to move beyond the crisis phase of the pandemic in large part because of the powerful protection from severe illness and death provided by coronavirus vaccines, which now are authorized for all Americans over six months old.  I applaud the scientists who developed these lifesavings vaccines, and I applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for distributing them throughout the country effectively, efficiently, and equitably.  I urge all Americans who aren’t currently up to date on their coronavirus vaccinations to get vaccinated and boosted in accordance with the current recommendations.

Even as we move beyond the coronavirus crisis, scientists tell us that there will eventually be another pandemic caused by another new pathogen.  That is why we must learn from our experiences with this coronavirus crisis—to ensure that we can save as many lives as possible the next time we are confronted with such a deadly public health threat.

That is the objective of the Select Subcommittee as we continue to investigate our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a particular focus on the period when the American people were most vulnerable to severe illnesses and deaths.  

Our investigations have found that the Trump Administration engaged in a rampant campaign of political interference in the pandemic response:  minimizing, undermining, and eventually even suppressing the work of scientists and public health experts in a misguided and dangerous attempt to advance the president’s political goals.

Our witness here today, Dr. Deborah Birx, has firsthand knowledge of the failures of the previous administration’s pandemic response from her tenure as coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.  This is her first time testifying at any congressional hearing about her experience in that role. 

Based on what she observed, Dr. Birx has estimated that more than 130,000 lives could have been saved if the Trump Administration had implemented optimal mitigation measures in 2020 and early 2021.

The Trump Administration’s failures began early in the crisis and persisted for the remainder of their term in office.  The administration failed to take basic steps to acquire critical supplies, develop tests, and prepare for the growing threat in the early months of 2020, leaving our country woefully underprepared. 

The president failed to share accurate medical information with the American people, instead spreading dangerous misinformation as we will now see on video. 

Consistent with these dangerously inaccurate statements, President Trump and his advisers sidelined public health experts and sound science in favor of discredited strategies that they believed served his political goals.  As detailed in a report released by the Select Subcommittee earlier this week, senior Trump Administration officials embraced a dangerous herd immunity via mass infection strategy that Dr. Birx has described, as I quote, “a true threat to a comprehensive and critical response to this pandemic.”  End of quote.

President Trump ignored warnings from top scientists throughout 2020, including from Dr. Birx when she anticipated that the nation would be entering and another quote, “most concerningphase of the pandemic in late 2020.  Instead of taking lifesaving action to mitigate surging cases, President Trump prioritized his re-election campaign and the Big Lie, leading to the deadliest period of the pandemic to date. 

President Trump’s contempt for science and his persistent attacks on public health experts have had a lasting harmful impact on our country, undermining many Americans’ trust in public health officials and institutions, and contributing to the continued politicization of public health.  This damage has resulted in far too many coronavirus deaths, including deaths that could have been prevented through vaccinations.  Many preventable deaths have been disproportionately concentrated among those who trusted the former president.

We cannot bring those Americans back, nor the more than 130,000 who Dr. Birx estimates lost their lives before vaccines as a result of the previous administration’s failures.  But we must learn all we can about these failures so that we can properly prepare for future pandemic threats.  Dr. Birx, we look forward to hearing from you today in furtherance of this critical work.

I now recognize the Ranking Member Scalise for his opening statement.

117th Congress