House panel subpoenas HHS, CDC chiefs as investigation into Covid response intensifies

Health, Fitness & Food

President Donald Trump delivers remarks beside HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield during a tour of the Center for Disease Control following a COVID-19 coronavirus briefing in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., March 6, 2020.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, have been subpoenaed by a House panel investigating the Trump administration’s response to the Covid pandemic.

Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said the panel issued the subpoenas Monday, ordering the two officials to produce documents that Clyburn said show political interference that hindered the nation’s response to the pandemic by Dec. 30.

“The subpoenas were necessary because the Select Subcommittee’s investigation has revealed that efforts to interfere with scientific work at CDC were far more extensive and dangerous than previously known,” Clyburn said in a statement.

The subcommittee also released new emails that show political appointees at HHS attempting to interfere with the publication of the CDC’s prestigious Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, or MMWRs. One string of emails released Monday by the subcommittee show appointees at HHS, including then-scientific advisor Paul Alexander, plotting to publicly rebuke a published MMWR.

A draft of that rebuttal, which was never published, claimed the MMWR, which was about the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, “presents factual information with an agenda” and could “prevent the news from giving the proper coverage of a true ‘miracle cure.'” 

Early in the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine was hailed by President Donald Trump and others as a highly effective treatment for Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration authorized its emergency use to treat Covid, but later walked back the authorization, acknowledging there was evidence the drug could actually exacerbate some health conditions in Covid patients.

Dr. Charlotte Kent of CDC stated in an interview with the subcommittee that a public rebuttal to the CDC’s MMWR “could undermine confidence in CDC and in the quality of science that is in MMWR.” 

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates.

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