Select Subcommittee Releases Initial Findings from Transcribed Interview of Dr. Deborah Birx
Washington, D.C. (October 26, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, released initial findings from transcribed interviews with former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on October 12 and 13, 2021, regarding the federal government’s pandemic response. Chairman Clyburn released the following statement about the interviews:
“Dr. Birx’s statements to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis confirm that President Trump’s prioritization of politics, contempt for science, and refusal to follow the advice of public health experts undermined the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis. It is a tragedy that, according to Dr. Birx, more than 130,000 American lives could have been saved if the previous Administration and Republican governors had listened to scientists and implemented mitigation measures proven to stop the spread of the virus, such as masks. The Trump White House’s prioritization of election year politics over the pandemic response—even as cases surged last fall—is among the worst failures of leadership in American history.”
The Select Subcommittee released the following key findings:
Former President Trump Failed to Do Everything He Could to Stop the Spread of the Coronavirus and Save American Lives.
- When asked whether President Trump did everything he could to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, Dr. Birx was unequivocal: “No. And I’ve said that to the White House in general, and I believe I was very clear to the [former] President in specifics of what I needed him to do.”
- As cases started surging in Fall of 2020, Dr. Birx stated that she repeatedly raised the alarm within the Trump Administration that “more mitigation, more treatment” were needed. Among other things, Dr. Birx advocated for aggressive surveillance testing, increased masking, greater availability of treatments, and a comprehensive communications plan explaining the critical elements of key mitigation measures. Dr. Birx noted that her recommendations were not implemented “at the level that I felt they were needed.”
Trump White House Officials Were Actively Campaigning for the 2020 Presidential Election Instead of Focusing on Combating the Coronavirus.
- Dr. Birx stated that Trump White House officials “were actively campaigning and not as present in the White House as previously” in the fall of 2020 and that the narrow focus on campaigning “took people’s time away from and distracted them away from the pandemic.” Dr. Birx noted, “I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season” about combating the virus, explaining that “they weren’t there and we weren’t having COVID meetings continuously.”
- These statements are consistent with documents recently released by the Select Subcommittee showing that certain Trump Administration officials allowed the pandemic response to take a “back seat” in the fall of 2020 to instead focus their efforts on the election and spreading the former president’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent.
- Dr. Birx stated that she felt it was important to have everyone “comprehensively reengage” and put a comprehensive mitigation plan in place after the election to try and stop the surge in cases, but the Trump Administration did not implement that plan.
Dr. Scott Atlas Championed a Herd Immunity Strategy at Meetings with Senior Trump Administration Officials.
- Dr. Atlas, former Special Advisor to then-President Trump, advocated for a herd immunity strategy during meetings of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. During the transcribed interview, Dr. Birx stated: “[H]is 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. So anybody who wasn’t in the vulnerable group should be allowed to increase activities without mitigation because it didn’t matter if they became infected with COVID. ... I think he believed there was almost zero risk to anybody unless it would result in hospitalization or death.”
- In late August 2020, Dr. Atlas arranged for a meeting between President Trump and three outspoken proponents of advancing a herd immunity strategy: Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta who later authored the Great Barrington Declaration. Pool reports from August 26, 2020 that Dr. Atlas’s herd immunity roundtable took place, with President Trump in attendance.
- Dr. Birx stated that she “was very worried” about the theories that Dr. Atlas was espousing, which she called “dangerous” and “reckless.” She stated that she was “constantly raising the alert” in White House Coronavirus Task Force meetings about “the depths and breadths of my concern” about Dr. Atlas, noting that then-President Trump and then-Vice President Pence were well aware of her concerns. Dr. Birx also had “numerous” discussions with Mark Meadows, Marc Short, Jared Kushner, and Derek Lyons about Dr. Atlas’s dangerous views, stating that these conversations happened “weekly at a minimum.”
- According to Dr. Birx, Dr. Atlas’s presence at the White House “not only undermined the work of the Task Force,” it “made it harder to execute” an effective response.
More than 130,000 American Lives Could Have Been Saved During the Trump Administration Had Proven Public Health Measures Been Implemented.
- According to Dr. Birx, more than 130,000 American lives could have been saved after the first wave of the pandemic if the Trump Administration and certain states had followed the science and implemented proven mitigation measures. She stated: “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range.”
- Dr. Birx highlighted the effectiveness of mask mandates in particular, noting that states without mask requirements had 10 to 15 percent more fatalities compared to states with mask mandates.
Click here to read excerpts from Dr. Birx’s transcribed interview.