Select Subcommittee Threatens Subpoenas After Trump Administration Obstructs Investigation into Political Interference at CDC
Washington, D.C. (October 22, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar urging compliance with the Select Subcommittee’s September 14, 2020, request for transcribed interviews and documents regarding efforts by HHS political appointees to interfere with scientific reports and guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the coronavirus crisis. The Department has produced no documents or witnesses in response to these requests.
“This investigation is urgent because pervasive political interference at HHS appears to be contributing to the Trump Administration’s ongoing failure to control the coronavirus, which is killing hundreds of Americans each day,” the Chairman wrote. “I urge you to end your obstruction of this crucial investigation, allow CDC officials to speak freely to Congress, and produce responsive documents. If you refuse to comply voluntarily, you will force the Select Subcommittee to consider issuing subpoenas.”
The Select Subcommittee launched this investigation following reports that Trump Administration officials sought to alter and suppress the publication of CDC’s scientific reports related to the coronavirus beginning in May 2020. In response, HHS wrote to the Select Subcommittee on September 18, 2020, refusing to make any of the witnesses available on the requested dates and questioning the need for interviews.
Chairman Clyburn sent a second letter on September 22, 2020, emphasizing the urgency of the investigation and offering several accommodations. On October 2, Secretary Azar testified before the Select Subcommittee that the Department “wants to make that happen” and that “they’re in the final stages of getting things arranged.” In the nearly three weeks since his testimony, HHS has refused to commit to any interviews or produce any documents despite repeated follow-up efforts from Subcommittee staff.
“Withholding responsive documents and blocking key testimony are tactics of obstruction, not accommodation, especially in light of the Department’s failure to respond in full to at least six other requests from the Select Subcommittee since June 2020. If the Department has collected responsive documents, they should be produced at once—not withheld as leverage to delay transcribed interviews. In addition, deliberative process privilege is not an appropriate basis to withhold information or documents from Congress—especially where it is wielded to hide misconduct by executive branch officials.”
Today’s letter asks the Department to confirm by October 26, 2020, whether it will produce the requested documents and make the requested CDC witnesses available voluntarily.
Click here to read today’s letter.