Select Subcommittee Releases Final Report, Culminating More Than Two Years of Investigations Related to the Nation’s Response to the Coronavirus Crisis
Washington, D.C. (December 9, 2022) – Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, released its final report and announced plans to hold a final hearing on December 14, 2022, beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET, to be immediately followed by a business meeting at approximately 3:30 p.m. where the report will be formally adopted. Issuance of the final report will be the committee’s final official act, pursuant to its 2020 authorizing resolution, H. Res. 935, extended in relevant part by H. Res. 8 in 2021.
In addition to discussing previous Select Subcommittee findings, the final report reveals new findings from several of the committee’s investigations, including findings related to the Trump Administration’s failure to recognize and prepare for the threat posed by the coronavirus in early 2020, which resulted in inaccurate testing and insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). The report also includes new information from the Select Subcommittee’s investigations into right-wing purveyors of coronavirus misinformation, and into the practices of for-profit nursing home chains.
Informed by the Select Subcommittee’s oversight work and extensive investigative record, today’s report also provides the Select Subcommittee’s final 30 recommendations to strengthen the nation’s ability to prevent and respond to public health and economic emergencies. These recommendations include: accelerating development of next-generation coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics; investing in improved financial relief and public health infrastructure; combating misinformation; and protecting relief programs from fraud.
Many of these recommendations will be examined during Wednesday’s hearing, which will feature testimony from: Dr. Rick Bright, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and former vaccine researcher at the National Institutes of Health; Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project; and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sinai Chicago and former Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Chairman Clyburn released the following statement about today’s final report and final hearing and business meeting plans:
“Just as its model, the Truman Committee, uncovered waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars at the Department of Defense during World War II, the Select Subcommittee has acted as an effective steward of public funds, identifying billions of taxpayer funds spent ineffectively, inefficiently, or inequitably within pandemic relief programs across the federal government. As this final report shows, in many instances, the Trump Administration’s poor management of relief programs left them particularly vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse. The report also lays out in detail how the previous administration prioritized politics over public health in its pandemic response, engaging in an unprecedented campaign to undermine federal agencies responsible for protecting Americans’ health and lives. Fortunately, as a result of the partnership between the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats in Congress, the United States was able to restore scientific integrity to the nation’s pandemic response, save hundreds of thousands of lives through a historic vaccination campaign, and return the economy to near full employment with unprecedented speed.
“I have emphasized during the Select Subcommittee’s tenure that our oversight work must ultimately be forward-looking; the coronavirus crisis will not be the last public health emergency or economic crisis that we confront. The report’s recommendations, informed by 42 hearings and Member briefings and 37 staff analyses, will ensure the nation is better suited to face future threats while also enacting public health and economic policies that will serve us well in good times as well as bad. I look forward to Wednesday’s final hearing to learn how we can work toward preventing and preparing for future public health emergencies, and to the subsequent business meeting to formally adopt our final report into the congressional record so that it can serve as a guidepost for future legislators as well as for the American people.”
Today’s final report is entitled “Preparing for and Preventing the Next Public Health Emergency: Lessons Learned from the Coronavirus Crisis” and is available in full here.
The report reveals the following key new findings:
The Trump Administration Failed to Quickly React to the Looming Threat of a New and Unknown Pathogen in Early 2020
- Today’s report describes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) emerging understanding of reports regarding an outbreak of an unknown respiratory virus in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and early 2020. CDC scientists became increasingly alarmed after initial reports of “five or seven cases” turned out to be “something like 27 cases… more than was in [a public health] report.” Then-CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Select Subcommittee that he noticed that some of the 27 cases “were in what we call clusters.” He described a call with his Chinese counterpart in early January, during which he said: “the clusters bother me, because you really think they all walked by the same animal and all got infected, or do you think it’s possible one of them got infected, and then they transmitted to others in the cluster?”
- Despite his growing concerns about human-to-human transmission, Dr. Redfield made only limited attempts to obtain additional information, asking then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and President Trump to call their respective counterparts, but requesting no further information or action. When asked during his transcribed interview whether he received reports back on either of the phone calls, Dr. Redfield responded, “No.” Meanwhile, President Trump signed a $200 billion trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 15 and tweeted on January 24—the day the second coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States—“China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus, … It will all work out. … I want to thank President Xi!”
The Intelligence Community Lacked Critical Information About the Coronavirus During the Initial Outbreak, and Leaders Did Not Prioritize Key Preparations
- In a newly released interview transcript, former Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Dr. Robert Kadlec described how he struggled to obtain critical information on the virus in early 2020, saying: “My information from our intelligence sources in HHS were, quite frankly, lousy.” Dr. Redfield similarly told the Select Subcommittee that he “didn’t get any information coming to me from the intelligence community. If anything, we may have given what information we had to the intelligence community.”
- Dr. Nancy Messonnier, former Director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the Select Subcommittee in a transcribed interview that CDC had “incomplete information about transmission patterns in China” in January 2020, and described feeling “frustrated that we didn’t understand everything that we wanted to understand about the virus.”
- Former CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat told the Select Subcommittee during a transcribed interview that “there were key areas, like scaling up PPE and getting our arms around the supply chain and protecting the health care system,” that “didn’t get sufficient attention because of the leadership and policy time that was going into the repatriation mission.” As a result, “we didn’t have the right policy governance to get the key issues escalated and decisions made.”
Warnings Regarding Asymptomatic and Presymptomatic Spread by CDC Medical Officers Handling Airport Screenings Were Ignored in Early 2020 as They Were Told Not to Wear Protective Equipment That “Might Cause Fear”
- The Select Subcommittee obtained new information from two whistleblowers who worked as a CDC medical officers conducting airport screenings of arriving travelers in January and February 2020. One officer told the Select Subcommittee that frontline CDC personnel conducting initial screenings of passengers returning from China were instructed not to wear PPE like masks, gloves, and face shields because CDC officials were concerned that if the public observed health officials using full protective equipment it “might cause fear” and were “concerned how this might appear politically.”
- Another officer told the Select Subcommittee that multiple CDC officials raised concerns internally in February and March that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission was a driving factor of coronavirus spread. In late February, the officer “began to raise concerns that CDC policy was only accounting for symptomatic spread of the virus,” telling supervisors that “this was not an appropriate or rational response in light of the scientific research available at the time.” According to the officer, many other CDC officers raised similar concerns during their deployments at other airport screening stations throughout the country and that the CDC should have acted more quickly to warn the public of risks, saying: “In order to slow the spread of the virus, the CDC needed to lead public policy to address the more important concern of asymptomatic/presymptomatic spread.”
- According to the officer, CDC updated its internal guidance to account for asymptomatic spread, but its external policies remained unchanged for weeks. The officer said he “felt trapped” because “[t]he data was telling them what it would take to slow the virus and protect the public, but their agency—the global leader in health science—was not acting accordingly.” According to the officer, CDC’s failure to recognize the prevailing science and acknowledge asymptomatic spread earlier was “not only scientifically incorrect but cost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American lives.”
- These findings echo previous statements to the Select Subcommittee from former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who said by relying on symptomatic airport screening, “50 percent or more of the cases were being missed that were responsible for community transmission” in those early months.
Poor Planning Left the Nation Underprepared to Respond to the Coronavirus Crisis
- Dr. Kadlec told the Select Subcommittee during a transcribed interview that pandemic preparedness efforts before the coronavirus were “focused on pandemic influenza preparedness,” premised on symptomatic detection rather than diagnostic testing. Dr. Kadlec characterized this focus as “a significant hallmark and a flaw” in the government’s planning assumptions, which contributed to severe shortages of testing supplies and PPE in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) at the outset. Admiral Brett Giroir—who served as the Trump Administration’s “Testing Czar”—similarly told the Select Subcommittee that this narrow focus on symptom-based pandemic influenza was a “major problem” that contributed to supply shortages.
- In his interview, Dr. Kadlec highlighted how a pandemic simulation run by the federal government in 2019 identified “a lot of problems” including “lack of integration” across federal agencies in charge of emergency preparedness and response —many of which remained unresolved in 2020 and impeded the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Dr. Kadlec said the simulation revealed that “everything that we probably would need in a pandemic … were sourced from China” and “the likelihood would be the supply chains would be disrupted and we just have just-in-time supplies.”
Problems with CDC’s Initial Coronavirus Test Led to an Early Response Failure of “Incalculable Cost”
- Newly released documents shed light on the extent to which CDC’s flawed coronavirus test hampered early testing and mitigation efforts. On February 15, 2020, the Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health sent an email to FDA leadership confirming that dozens of public health labs had reported false positive results when validating the CDC test. This email highlighted a “particularly concerning” development: The test that CDC had validated for authorization “used a different lot of components than the test that was manufactured for public health labs”—an action that FDA said CDC “shouldn’t have done.” Ten days later, FDA still could not “get a straight answer” from CDC on how to proceed with resolving the test validation issues.
- An internal CDC analysis obtained by the Select Subcommittee concluded that CDC’s failure to detect the test validation problem prior to distribution “is a quality process failure of incalculable cost.” A subsequent analysis publicly released by CDC determined that the test was impacted by both a design flaw and contamination issues. When asked during his transcribed interview about CDC’s challenges with developing a coronavirus test, Dr. Redfield disclaimed responsibility for the test’s design flaw, stating: “had I been involved in those decisions at the time, I would have recommended a contract manufacturing company manufacture” the test’s primer components instead of having CDC produce the components in house. Dr. Redfield said it was “a personal disappointment to me that CDC wasn’t patted on the back for developing a test rapidly and deploying it.”
Trump Administration Officials Failed to Implement a Successful Strategy to Manage the Supply Chain and Scale up PPE in the Critical Early Months of the Coronavirus Outbreak
- The Select Subcommittee conducted a series of transcribed interviews with outside consultants who worked on Jared Kushner’s supply-chain task force in the spring of 2020. Employees of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) and one volunteer—who the Trump Administration relied on to solve complex supply chain challenges—told the Select Subcommittee that they received no training prior to the initiation of their work. When asked about his prior experience in federal procurement before joining the task force, a partner at McKinsey who worked on the task force said he “didn’t know anything about government contracting when [he] started” and characterized his work for the task force as “quite unusual,” and said, “this type of work is atypical.” Consultants also told the Select Subcommittee that they did not know whether the task force successfully procured any PPE, with one consultant stating: “I couldn’t tell you if it was zero to any, I have no idea.”
- The task force was staffed with numerous young volunteers from private equity and finance firms who lacked experience in federal procurement. One volunteer who served on the task force informed the Select Subcommittee: “None of the volunteers working on the sourcing team had any significant experience in procurement or distribution. Every volunteer on the sourcing team came from a finance background and was under 28.” According to the volunteer, the task force struggled to keep up with the voluminous number of incoming leads regarding possible PPE suppliers: “There were hundreds if not thousands of leads, and only about 10 volunteers. This overloading made it more difficult to be responsive to every lead, slowing down response times and causing confusion.”
- Task force volunteers were told to prioritize tips regarding possible PPE suppliers from “VIPs,” including political allies, associates of President Trump, and Republican Members of Congress. The volunteer said he was told to prioritize leads from Avi Berkowitz (Mr. Kushner’s Chief of Staff), Charlie Kirk, Jeanine Pirro, Tana Goertz (creator of the “Women for Trump” coalition), and Albert Hazzouri (a friend of President Trump). Meanwhile, leads provided by medical professionals with longtime manufacturing contacts, but no political connections, were passed over or ignored. The volunteer said that the task force’s procurement efforts suffered from “many missteps and frequently duplicated work.” The McKinsey partner similarly expressed that there were “competing efforts that ran parallel to one another.”
New Evidence Further Underscores How the Trump Administration’s Early Handling of the Crisis Led to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
- As the Trump Administration failed to alleviate supply chain shortages, federal agencies and state and local governments seeking vital PPE were left to fend for themselves during the early months of the pandemic—increasing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer resources. Today’s report includes new evidence from the Select Subcommittee’s investigation of Federal Government Experts, LLC (FGE) and its CEO, Robert Stewart, Jr., who fraudulently acquired $38.7 million in federal contracts for N95 masks. Newly released evidence shows that an official involved in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contract negotiations with Mr. Stewart told the VA Office of Inspector General prior to the contract award that VA was “[s]truggling with potential price gouging” and had received “some solicitations that even appear to have fraudulent masks.” Despite this apparent concern, VA awarded FGE a multimillion-dollar contract on April 10, 2020.
- New evidence shows that VA officials warned VA’s Rocky Mountain Network days later not to place an order with FGE, stating “there is about a 0% probability that VA will receive any of the 6 million N95 masks.” Despite Mr. Stewart’s failure to perform, the VA awarded Mr. Stewart a second contract under which FGE promised to deliver 85,000 masks for nearly $250,000. New evidence shows that Mr. Stewart secured this second VA contract using the same fraudulent scheme as the first.
Right-Wing Extremists Contributed to and Profited from the Spread of Misinformation
- The Select Subcommittee conducted an investigation into two prominent purveyors of misinformation—America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) and SpeakWithAnMD.com—who used telemedicine to prescribe disproven and potentially hazardous coronavirus treatments in the United States. New evidence obtained by the Select Subcommittee reveals that SpeakWithAnMD.com enlisted prominent conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to steer prospective patients to their website in return for lucrative referral fees—ranging between $5 to $20 for each patient that he referred to SpeakWithAnMD.com. SpeakWithAnMD.com-affiliated medical providers reportedly prescribed thousands of doses of potentially hazardous coronavirus treatments, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which jeopardized American lives and undermined the nation’s ability to overcome the coronavirus crisis.
- The Select Subcommittee also found that in the five-month period between April 2021 and September 2021, more than 480,000 prospective patients registered for accounts on SpeakWithAnMD.com’s telemedicine platform seeking consultations. In total, prospective patients appear to have paid more than $6.7 million for consultations from July 2021 to September 2021 alone.
Residents and Staff in For-Profit Nursing Home Chains Experienced High Numbers of Coronavirus Infections and Deaths
- The Select Subcommittee released additional findings from its two-year investigation into five for-profit nursing home chains: Consulate Health Care, Ensign Group, Genesis Healthcare, Inc., Life Care Centers of America, and SavaSeniorCare, finding that these companies collectively experienced a total of 81,775 coronavirus infections and 10,362 deaths among residents, and 67,140 infections and 118 deaths among staff between 2020 and June 2022.
- The Select Subcommittee found that these companies have each had significant staffing deficiencies throughout the course of the pandemic, have often provided low wages and poor benefits to their front-line workers. Many facilities failed to meet recommended staffing ratios for both registered nurses and nursing assistants during the 30-month period reviewed by the Select Subcommittee. Many facilities also paid low wages, with multiple facilities paying nursing assistants an average of less than $10 an hour. While primary series vaccination rates among residents and staff were high, the Select Subcommittee also found that many residents and staff were behind on boosters as of July 2022.
- Previously, the Select Subcommittee released evidence showing how many for-profit nursing home facilities were severely understaffed and under-resourced during the early months of the pandemic, leading to deficient care, neglect, and negative health outcomes for residents. Despite having symptoms of or testing positive for the coronavirus, many nursing homes pressured workers to come to work, endangering residents and other staff.
The report also reviews notable findings released previously by the Select Subcommittee:
Once the Coronavirus Outbreak Erupted into a Full-Blown Crisis, the Trump Administration Engaged in an Unprecedented Campaign to Control and Manipulate the Work of Scientists Leading the Public Health Response
- As described in an October 2022 report, the Select Subcommittee obtained evidence on how the Trump White House blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conveying accurate information to the public, installed political operatives who sought to downplay the pandemic, and attempted to alter and block CDC guidance, scientific studies, and public health orders to serve its perceived political goals.
- An August 2022 report illustrated how the Trump White House sought to interfere in FDA’s authorization of coronavirus treatments and vaccines by: pressuring FDA officials to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment after it was shown to be ineffective and potentially dangerous; rushing FDA to accelerate the authorization of convalescent plasma; and even blocking the release of coronavirus vaccine guidance out of fear that recommended safety protocols would delay the authorization of a vaccine until after the 2020 presidential election.
- The Select Subcommittee also released a report in June 2022 that described how the Trump Administration embraced a dangerous and discredited herd immunity via mass infection strategy many months before vaccines were available.
Private Actors Motivated by Profits Undermined the Response to the Public Health Crisis
- The Select Subcommittee revealed in a joint investigation how Emergent BioSolutions failed to follow FDA quality standards while manufacturing coronavirus vaccines under a $628 million contract it received from the Trump Administration, ultimately destroying over 525 million vaccine doses and wasting $330 million in taxpayer dollars.
- In another investigation, the Select Subcommittee illustrated how executives at One Medical exploited early access to coronavirus vaccines for financial gain, pushing vaccine seekers toward paid memberships for its medical services and prioritizing concierge clients and friends and family members of the company’s executives for vaccine access.
- The Select Subcommittee’s investigation into for-profit nursing homes found that one company, Ensign Group, Inc., was not using a provider relief fund payment it had received from the Trump Administration—resulting in a return of $109 million to American taxpayers.
- A May 2022 report revealed how meatpacking companies engaged Trump Administration political appointees at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an aggressive campaign to force workers to remain in dangerous plants with high risk of coronavirus transmission.
After Congress Passed Emergency Relief Programs to Aid Struggling Americans, the Trump Administration’s Implementation Left Them Vulnerable to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse by Unscrupulous Private Actors
- A Select Subcommittee investigation found that the Trump Administration failed to implement effective review processes and other basic safeguards against fraud during the early operation of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, likely contributing to what the SBA OIG estimates to be $86 billion in potential fraud.
- A Select Subcommittee investigation into a $750 million COVID-19 EIDL loan contract—the largest individual contract across the entire federal government to respond to the pandemic’s economic impact—determined it went to a small company RER Solutions without a competitive bid process. The company assigned six employees to work on the contract and netted more than $340 million.
- An April 2022 report on a $700 million loan to politically connected trucking company Yellow Corporation detailed how Trump Administration political appointees overruled career Department of Defense officials to certify the company as “critical to maintaining national security” and therefore eligible for the loan. The company then used the loan for long-term capital investments in violation of CARES Act requirements.
- In an investigation into the role of financial technology (“fintech”) companies in the nearly $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program, the Select Subcommittee found that the company Blueacorn abused the program for its executives’ personal gain while receiving over $1 billion in taxpayer-funded processing fees. Another company, Womply, implemented a loan screening system that a lender described as “put together with duct tape and gum” and as allowing “rampant fraud,” yet received over $2 billion in taxpayer-funded fees. Earlier this week, in response to the release of the Select Subcommittee’s report, the SBA suspended Blueacorn and Womply from working with the agency in any capacity and announced plans to further investigate other companies and individuals covered in the report.
- In September 2020, the Select Subcommittee found that over 11,000 PPP loan applications totaling nearly $3 billion were approved by the Trump Administration for small businesses despite indications of potential fraud, including businesses with inconsistent identifying information on their applications, businesses with no listed physical addresses, or businesses that were not in operation before February 15, 2020, and were therefore ineligible for the program.
- An October 2021 report on the $1.2 billion USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program demonstrated how USDA paid $16.5 million worth of contracts to an export management and trade finance company called Yegg and $31.5 million to wedding planning company CRE8AD8 to deliver boxes of food to struggling Americans. The investigation determined that Yegg submitted unsupported invoices and engaged in self-dealing, while CRE8AD8 made unreliable deliveries of food that raised safety issues.
The final report is based on the entire investigative record of the Select Subcommittee, including the findings of 37 staff reports and analyses, 42 hearings and Member briefings, and the review of nearly a million pages of documents. Today’s release provides three business days’ notice of the Select Subcommittee’s proposed report to all Members as required under Rule 4(c) of the Rules of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Click here to read’s today’s report.
Click here to read the following transcribed interview released today of Dr. Robert Kadlec, former Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for the Department of Health and Human Services.
On Wednesday, December 14, at 2:00 p.m. ET, a hearing and business livestream will be available on YouTube and the Select Subcommittee website. The hearing will be held in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
Credentialed media wishing to attend must RSVP to Graeme Crews at email@example.com no later than 6 p.m. ET Tuesday, December 13.