Select Subcommittee’s Year-End Staff Report Highlights Oversight Work, Releases New Findings from Ongoing Investigations
Washington, D.C. (December 17, 2021) — Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a year-end staff report titled, “More Effective, More Efficient, More Equitable: Overseeing an Improving & Ongoing Pandemic Response.” The staff report documents key findings from the Select Subcommittee’s investigations, hearings, and other oversight activities throughout 2021. The report also contains new findings from the Select Subcommittee’s ongoing investigations, including further evidence of the Trump Administration’s relentless prioritization of politics over Americans’ public health and failure to effectively administer pandemic relief programs.
“Over the course of this year, the Select Subcommittee has continued and expanded on the critical work it began in 2020—rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal pandemic programs, promoting a robust and equitable coronavirus vaccination campaign, protecting American workers and their families, and exposing the historic failures of the prior Administration’s pandemic response that continue to hamper the nation’s ability to fully recover from this crisis,” said Chairman Clyburn about today’s report. “As the nation continues progressing on a path toward ending this pandemic, the Select Subcommittee’s work remains essential to improving the ongoing response efforts and ensuring we are better prepared for future public health crises.”
The Select Subcommittee’s staff report contains new evidence from its ongoing investigations, shedding additional light on the Trump Administration’s failed coronavirus response and further exposing its staggering pattern of political interference that jeopardized Americans’ health and safety:
- Then-President Trump held a meeting at the White House with a “fringe group” that advocated for a dangerous herd immunity strategy embraced by then-White House Special Advisor Dr. Scott Atlas.
- The Select Subcommittee obtained an email showing that then-President Trump was scheduled to hold a roundtable event at the White House in August 2020 with proponents of a dangerous herd immunity strategy, whom former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx described as “a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience.” In an email to then-Chief of Staff to the Vice President Marc Short, Dr. Birx refused to be associated with the roundtable, telling Mr. Short that she could “go out of town or whatever gives the WH cover” on the day of the event.
- Additional emails obtained by the Select Subcommittee show that top public health officials, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins, expressed deep concerns about the herd immunity strategy being advocated by these “fringe epidemiologists.” In an October 8, 2020, email, Dr. Collins called for “a quick and devastating published take down” of the herd immunity strategy known as “The Great Barrington Declaration,” after which Dr. Collins spoke out against the approach in an interview with the Washington Post. After the interview was published, Dr. Collins noted in an October 13, 2020, email to NIH officials that his quotes were “accurate, but will not be appreciated in the WH [White House].”
- Dr. Birx and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat detailed a series of early missteps that contributed to the Trump Administration’s ineffectual coronavirus response.
- In a transcribed interview before the Select Subcommittee, Dr. Birx revealed that federal officials had not contacted some of the largest diagnostic companies operating in the United States to help scale up testing until she arrived at the White House in March 2020—more than a month after the United States had declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
- According to Dr. Schuchat, Trump Administration officials in February 2020 were so narrowly focused on repatriating Americans abroad that “key areas, like scaling up PPE [personal protective equipment] and getting our arms around the supply chain and protecting the healthcare system and so forth, it didn’t get sufficient attention” during the initial response. Dr. Schuchat emphasized that “a smoother, more effective leadership and policy environment would have been helpful” during the initial months of the response.
- The Trump White House intentionally “softened” CDC’s public health guidance for faith communities.
- Dr. Jay Butler, a senior CDC official who served as Incident Manager of the agency’s coronavirus response during May and June 2020, stated in a transcribed interview that the Trump Administration published guidance for faith communities on May 23, 2020, that “softened some very important public health recommendations,” such as removing all references to face coverings, a suggestion to suspend choirs, and language related to virtual services.
- An internal CDC email obtained by the Select Subcommittee reveals that the Trump White House “directed” CDC to post the White House’s preferred version of the faith communities guidance—and that Dr. Butler believed CDC’s work had been “compromised” by the actions of the Trump White House. In an interview, Dr. Butler explained that “what had been done [by the Trump White House] was not good public health practice,” and acknowledged that the concerns he had about Americans getting sick and potentially dying because they relied on this watered-down guidance “will haunt [him] for some time.”
The year-end staff report also highlights fraud in pandemic programs administered by the previous Administration:
- A new Select Subcommittee analysis found that nearly 97 percent of Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) fraud prosecutions have involved fraudulent applications submitted during the Trump Administration’s implementation of the program. This analysis comports with the Select Subcommittee’s earlier finding that the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Trump Administration failed to implement essential fraud controls to guard critical relief funds against fraud. The SBA under the Biden Administration has subsequently added such controls, including use of the Treasury Do Not Pay list and verification of applicant tax information.
Today’s staff report details the Select Subcommittee’s key accomplishments in 2021, including:
- Exposing unprecedented political interference by Trump Administration officials in the pandemic response that contributed to one of the worst failures of leadership in American history;
- Unearthing a series of early missteps and missed warnings that contributed to an ineffectual response to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States;
- Uncovering evidence that coronavirus infections and deaths among workers for five of the largest meatpacking companies were nearly three times higher than previously estimated;
- Pressing Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. to answer for the company’s series of failures that led to the contamination of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses and wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars;
- Revealing critical failures in the 2020 Farmers-to-Families Food Box Program that wasted taxpayer dollars, and evidencing the Trump Administration’s use of the program to secure political advantages for former President Trump; and
- Rooting out the role of Trump White House officials in approving a questionable $700 million CARES Act national security loan to a troubled trucking company of dubious importance to national security.
In 2021, the Select Subcommittee sent more than 100 letters, reviewed more than 430,000 pages of documents, conducted ten transcribed interviews of key officials involved in the pandemic response, published seven staff reports detailing its findings, and held 14 hearings and public briefings with senior Administration officials, experts in public health and economics, Americans personally impacted by the pandemic, and other important witnesses.
Click here to read “More Effective, More Efficient, More Equitable: Overseeing an Improving & Ongoing Pandemic Response.”
Click here to see emails released today.
Click here to see new excerpts from transcribed interviews with Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anne Schuchat, and Dr. Jay Butler.