Clyburn Seeks Interview with Former Trump FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn
Washington, D.C. (November 22, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Dr. Stephen Hahn, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, requesting a transcribed interview and documents related to his role in the Trump Administration’s failed pandemic response.
“Our investigations have found that the Trump Administration engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference in the pandemic response and took actions that allowed the virus to spread in an attempt to advance former President Trump’s electoral prospects. These efforts included attempts to interfere with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) review of coronavirus therapeutics and vaccines. ... The Select Subcommittee seeks to understand the full extent of Trump Administration officials’ efforts to interfere with FDA’s authorization of coronavirus vaccines, President Trump’s unrelenting pressure campaign directed towards FDA and you personally, and how these events may have impacted FDA’s work in this area.”
Evidence obtained by the Select Subcommittee raises questions about the Trump Administration’s pandemic response efforts and underscores the pressure President Trump attempted to exert on FDA and on Dr. Hahn personally:
A Senior FDA Official Warned then-Commissioner Hahn About Questionable Science and Potential Safety Concerns with Using Hydroxychloroquine as a Coronavirus Treatment
- Then-Commissioner Hahn and one of his top deputies discussed over text message concerns about hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, including concerns about data submitted by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko—a physician who has become a prominent conspiracy theorist and purveyor of hydroxychloroquine misinformation.
- On April 8, 2020, Dr. Amy Abernethy, Principal Deputy Commissioner of Food and Drugs, warned then-Commissioner Hahn: “I am reading through the emails you are sending - this is a real problem (the example from Laura I) [REDACTED] … This is what I just sent [FDA Chief of Staff] Keagan [Lenihan] about the Zelenko data (because [REDACTED]). Just want you know what I am worried about…” According to press reports, one week earlier, Fox News host Laura Ingraham met privately with Dr. Hahn, then-President Trump, and two doctors advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. President Trump reportedly “emerged from that meeting seemingly determined to advocate for hydroxychloroquine to be more widely used.”
- Five days later, on April 13, 2020, Dr. Abernethy cautioned then-Commissioner Hahn that a recent study found chloroquine potentially unsafe, writing: “Bottom line is that the dose of CQ [chloroquine] rec by Chinese led to increased deaths and cardiovascular events. DSMB [Data and Safety Monitoring Board] stopped study for safety.”
- FDA issued a public warning about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on April 24, 2020, but did not revoke the authorization for hydroxychloroquine until June 15. In the months following these decisions, President Trump and other White House officials continued to promote widespread use of the drug as a coronavirus treatment.
Then-Commissioner Hahn Blatantly Misrepresented Data on Convalescent Plasma After a Trump Administration Political Appointee Encouraged Him to “Message Positive Always”
- During an August 23, 2020, White House press conference, then-Commissioner Hahn cited grossly inaccurate statistics on the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy to treat coronavirus patients, stating: “A 35 percent improvement in survival is a pretty substantial clinical benefit. What that means is … 100 people who are sick with COVID-19, 35 would have been saved because of the administration of plasma.”
- In an email discussing his proposed talking points hours before the press conference began, then-Commissioner Hahn told FDA officials, “I like 35% increase in survival.” In response, Emily Miller—FDA’s spokesperson and a former reporter for One America News Network—told Dr. Hahn to “[m]essage positive always.”
- Following blowback from the scientific community for his inaccurate statements about convalescent plasma therapy, then-Commissioner Hahn acknowledged his misrepresentations and apologized, although then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and President Trump did not.
Then-Commissioner Hahn May Have Shared Concerns About Dr. Scott Atlas’s Influence on Federal Policy
- By late August 2020, Dr. Scott Atlas, then-Special Advisor to the President, had become an influential voice pushing for a herd immunity strategy within the Trump White House. Information recently obtained by the Select Subcommittee reveals Dr. Atlas contacted then-Commissioner Hahn directly on August 23 to arrange a phone call.
- During a recent transcribed interview with the Select Subcommittee, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx detailed Dr. Atlas’s influence and described his “strong belief that anybody who was only going to have mild disease or asymptomatic disease should be allowed and actually encouraged to get the virus and spread the virus because that was your pathway, although it’s never said that way, to herd immunity.” Dr. Birx further explained that Dr. Hahn, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci and then-Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield, shared her significant concerns about Dr. Atlas and the “reckless” views on the coronavirus that he promoted within the White House.
Read today’s letter to Dr. Stephen Hahn, former FDA Commissioner.
Click here to read new documents released by the Select Subcommittee.