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White House limits Covid-19 taskforce members appearances before committees
5 May 2020, 06:37
US coronavirus task force members have been told they will not be allowed to testify before committees unless the White House agrees first.
The move comes after the White House blocked Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, from testifying before a House panel, suggesting his testimony would be "counterproductive."
House Democrats have said the Trump administration block will mean the committees are unable to gather detailed information about the American response to the pandemic.
A White House memo sent to Congressional committees also aims to limit the number of officials from key departments appearing before coronavirus related inquiries.
The memo cites that “the demands on agencies’ staff and resources are extraordinary in this current crisis.”
A senior administration official said task force members had been working non-stop since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak and need to focus on the task at hand rather than "preparing for four-hour hearings several times a week".
Democratic leaders of the House and Senate criticised the move.
The leader of the Democrats in the Senate Chuck Schumer said: "President Trump should learn that by muzzling science and the truth, it will only prolong this health and economic crisis.
"The president's failure to accept the truth and then his desire to hide it, is one of the chief reasons we are lagging behind so many other countries in beating this scourge."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CNN that spending bills related to the pandemic begin in the House and that politicians need to consult with administration officials on those matters.
She said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who until recently served in the House, knew politicians would be insisting on the truth, and the White House "might be afraid of the truth".
"The fact that they said, 'We're too busy being on TV to come to the Capitol' is, well, business as usual for them," Ms Pelosi said.
The memo said that given the "competing demands in these unprecedented times, it is reasonable to expect that agencies will have to decline invitations to hearings to remain focused" on the Covid-19 response.