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House Democrats Renew Investigation Into Trump-Era COVID-19 Response

House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., is renewing an investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stefani Reynolds
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House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., is renewing an investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 11:36 a.m. ET

House Democrats are renewing their investigation into the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis, citing new documents and what they call evidence of political interference in the government response to the virus.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., sent letters to White House chief of staff Ron Klain and acting Health and Human Services Secretary Norris Cochran informing them of the investigations and additional evidence. Clyburn cites aninternal HHS email that he says includes details of an effort to end testing of asymptomatic infections over concerns that people who test positive would quarantine and suppress the economy.

The letter focuses particularly on allegations that Trump administration adviser Dr. Paul Alexander tried to suppress scientific data and pressured members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to alter public information.

"The previous Administration refused to cooperate with the Select Subcommittee's inquiries, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) blocking documents and witnesses related to the politicization of public health information, testing and supply shortages, vaccine development and distribution, and other critical aspects of the nation's virus response," Clyburn wrote. "Documents recently obtained by the Select Subcommittee raise further questions about political interference with the coronavirus response during the previous Administration."

The White House is currently reviewing the letter, according to a spokesman.

"We appreciate Chairman Clyburn and the Select Subcommittee's diligent work to help ensure an effective, science-driven pandemic response on the part of the United States government," the spokesman said in a statement. "The White House is focused on vaccinating the U.S. population efficiently and equitably and slowing the spread of COVID-19."

Committee Democrats cite emailsbetween Alexander and former Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Caputo pushing to reopen businesses based on information that contradicted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

The letter also outlines questions about the Trump administration's approach to herd immunity, vaccine distribution and controversial treatments such as hydroxychloroquine. Democrats began investigating many of those issues last spring, and the letter details plans to continue that probe.

The House launched a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis in April 2020. The bipartisan committee began investigative work last year, but the Trump administration largely refused to cooperate with its probe. The committee issued subpoenas for former HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-CDC Director Robert Redfield in December 2020, but those subpoenas were ignored.

Democrats have vowed to continue their probe into the actions of the previous administration while providing oversight over the ongoing response to the crisis.

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Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.