Top United States health official Dr Anthony Fauci will not testify next week to a congressional committee examining the response to the coronavirus pandemic by the administration of US President Donald Trump, the White House said on Friday, calling it “counterproductive” to have individuals involved in the response testify.
The White House issued an emailed statement after a spokesman for the Congressional committee holding the hearing said the committee had been informed by Trump administration officials that Fauci had been blocked from testifying.
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement to Reuters news agency. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
Fauci’s testimony was being sought for a May 6 hearing by a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health programmes, House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said.
The Washington Post first reported that Fauci would not testify.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been one of the leading and most trusted medical experts helping to guide the US response to the highly contagious virus that has swept across the US.
Fauci, who is no stranger to testifying before Congress, has sometimes contradicted Trump’s optimistic misstatements about the virus and how much it is under control after claiming more than 64,000 lives in the US.
Fauci has warned against relaxing social distancing rules that have helped slow the spread of the virus but caused a major hit to the economy. That has earned him criticism from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, and Trump himself has retweeted a supporter who called for Fauci’s firing.
Following speculation about Trump’s intentions about the retweet, the president said he was not considering firing the scientist.