Ahead of Hearing, Select Subcommittee Releases New Evidence of Trump Administration’s Prioritization of Politics Over Public Health
Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2022) – Today, in advance of a hearing at 10:00 a.m. ET with former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, released Dr. Birx’s full transcribed interview and new emails uncovered through the ongoing investigation into the Trump Administration’s political interference in the nation’s coronavirus response. The Select Subcommittee’s release of new evidence follows a new staff report released Tuesday on Trump Administration officials’ embrace of a dangerous and discredited herd immunity strategy under the influence of Senior Advisor to the President Dr. Scott Atlas.
New evidence released by the Select Subcommittee today includes the following key findings:
New Documents Show that White House Coronavirus Task Force Members Raised Alarm About Pandemic “Misinformation” Being Shared with President Trump that Fit His Preferred Political Narrative.
- In a new August 11, 2020, email obtained by the Select Subcommittee, Dr. Birx expressed concern to White House Coronavirus Task Force members Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, and Dr. Stephen Hahn about views championed by Dr. Atlas to President Trump during what she called “A very dangerous meeting in the OVAL yesterday.” Dr. Birx noted that Dr. Atlas offered “a very different take on the epidemic” and believed that both testing and “Masks are over rated and not needed.” Dr. Birx described Dr. Atlas’s rejection of mainstream mitigation measures as premised on the theory that, “No matter what we do it [sic] the outcome will be the same – in other words in most places the virus has already run its course. There is enough herd immunity to protect the rest of the population.”
- In the email, Dr. Birx noted that Dr. Atlas’s pandemic policies were designed to help President Trump’s reelection campaign. According to Dr. Birx, Dr. Atlas indicated that “Case identification is bad for the President’s reelection – testing should only be of the sick” and “Testing is very over rating [sic] – thus the source of the President’s call for new testing guidance.” Dr. Birx also recounted that Dr. Atlas criticized the White House Coronavirus Task Force for promoting testing, stating: “He noted that it was the task force that got us into this ditch by promoting testing and falsely increasing case counts compared to other countries.” Previous evidence released by the Select Subcommittee showed that CDC issued new guidance that severely weakened its testing recommendations approximately two weeks later.
- In a new August 13, 2020, email exchange with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Redfield, the doctors discussed Dr. Atlas’s views about the coronavirus, including that “He is against mitigation as he believes this is nothing more than the flu” and “He is against testing as community mitigation is irrelevant.” According to Dr. Birx, Dr. Atlas “is the one that has been telling the President that the virus would just go away in the summer as every state has a curve and once they move through their curve they are ‘immune.’”
- In the email, Dr. Birx expressed concern regarding how to counteract the parallel “misinformation” fed from Dr. Atlas to President Trump, saying “I am at a loss of what we should do.” Dr. Fauci responded: “I know what I am going to do. I am going to keep saying what we have been saying all along, which contradicts each of his 7 points listed below. If the press ask me whether what I say differs from his, I will merely say that I respectfully disagree with him.”
- In a new August 25, 2020 email, Dr. Birx pushed back against a draft op-ed by Dr. Atlas regarding reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the email, Dr. Birx disputed many points in Dr. Atlas’s draft and noted that “the statements are not consistent with what is actually occurring across most of the country.”
The Trump White House Concealed and Censored Pandemic Reports Sent to State and Local Officials.
- During a transcribed interview, Dr. Birx revealed new detail regarding the weekly reports that she sent to state and local officials around the country beginning in June 2020 to provide them with comprehensive data and state-specific recommendations regarding the status of the pandemic in each respective state. A subset of these reports—known internally within the White House as “Governors’ Reports”—were obtained and released by the Select Subcommittee in August and October 2020.
- The Trump White House Denied Requests to Publicly Release the Governors’ Reports, and Withheld Reports from States During the Deadly Winter Surge of 2020. Dr. Birx revealed that she asked the Trump White House to release the Governors’ Reports publicly, but the request was denied. Dr. Birx informed the Select Subcommittee that she was concerned that keeping the reports private would impair the public’s understanding of outbreaks in their communities and measures needed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Birx also confirmed that the White House stopped sending the Governors’ Reports to state and local officials in mid-December 2020 and instead required officials to request a copy each week. When asked why the change was made during the deadly winter surge of 2020, Dr. Birx stated: “I don’t know why it happened. I was just told of the change.”
- The Trump White House Forced Dr. Birx to Alter or Delete Mitigation Measures from Certain Reports. Dr. Birx revealed that the Trump White House altered the Governors’ Reports starting in the fall of 2020. Dr. Birx explained that she typically “received a list of changes for three or four states” on Monday mornings, including attempts to weaken or delete masking recommendations, indoor capacity restrictions, and other science-based recommendations.
- Dr. Birx stated that she succumbed to pressure and made about “25 percent” of the proposed changes, otherwise the reports “would not have gone out.” When asked whether she ever disagreed with the changes made to the reports, Dr. Birx responded unequivocally: “Yes.”
- Dr. Birx detailed that she developed methods to work around Trump White House censorship of the Governors’ Reports, including making certain recommendations “less obvious.” Dr. Birx stated that she “learned to put the things that there were issues with into the second part of a sentence”—referring to public health recommendations or other language that the Trump White House objected to—to hide it from the Trump White House officials skimming the report.
- Dr. Birx confirmed that she was instructed to make changes to reports issued to South Dakota in September 2020, including toning down language and removing certain public health recommendations. Dr. Birx noted that she “had deep concerns” about surging cases across South Dakota during this time, but her requests to set up meetings with state and local officials about the pandemic response were denied “several times” by Governor Kristi Noem.
Despite Warnings of a Coming Surge, Trump White House Officials Lost Interest in the Pandemic Response in mid-2020.
- During a transcribed interview, Dr. Birx revealed that she “was very concerned about the fall” and urged the Trump Administration to take proactive steps to prepare for the likelihood that cases would surge as temperatures cooled around the country. Dr. Birx stated that she discussed “how severe the fall would be and that we had to have a robust fall plan” with Administration officials by April and May 2020, including the need to revitalize the stockpile of personal protective equipment, ensure a “maximum expansion of testing,” and develop therapeutics.
- A new November 1, 2020, report obtained by the Select Subcommittee shows that, on the eve of the 2020 election, Dr. Birx provided a stark warning to White House officials: “We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic, the most community spread, the most rapid acceleration of hospitalizations both overwhelming of community urban and rural hospitals, inadequate human capacity, inability to load balance and crisis care of all patients including non-COVID patients leading to increasing mortality.” She wrote: “We need much more aggressive action from messaging, to testing, to surging personnel around the country prior to the crisis point.” Dr. Birx recommended “aggressive testing”; “unified consistent messaging”; and increased access to therapeutics. According to Dr. Birx, the warnings she issued to the White House went unheeded and her recommendations for how to prepare for and ward off the winter surge were ignored.
- The Select Subcommittee previously released evidence that Trump White House officials were “distracted” from the pandemic response by the 2020 presidential election and failed to heed Dr. Birx’s warnings in the fall of 2020 that “more mitigation, more treatment” were needed. Dr. Birx stated that Trump White House personnel “were less focused on the pandemic” through the summer and fall of 2020. When asked whether President Trump appeared to lose interest in the pandemic during this time, Dr. Birx stated that she “had less contact in general through the summer and fall” with the former President, adding: “I don’t remember the President attending task force meetings on a regular basis after the spring.”
Click here to watch today’s hearing with Dr. Birx at 10:00 a.m. ET.
Click to read the full transcribed interview with Dr. Birx released today: Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Click to read the documents released today: August 11, 2020, email; August 13, 2020, email exchange; August 25, 2020, email; and November 1, 2020, report.