WASHINGTON — Deborah Birx, who served as the Trump administration’s coronavirus coordinator, is set to testify in Congress next Thursday about the federal government’s early pandemic response and her assertion that more than 130,000 American lives could have been saved with swifter action and better coordinated public health messages after the virus’s first wave.
The House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis “will hear Dr. Birx’s firsthand knowledge about what went wrong during the previous Administration in order to determine what corrective steps are necessary to better prepare our nation for any future public health crisis and to ensure that our public health institutions are never again compromised by decision-makers more concerned with politics than Americans’ health,” the panel said in a statement shared with The Washington Post.
The Democrat-led panel has spent more than two years probing the federal government’s handling of the pandemic, with Chairman James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., repeatedly criticizing President Donald Trump and his deputies for touting unproven virus treatments, playing down the pandemic’s risks and taking other steps that public health experts said hampered the government’s response. Birx will be the first former Trump official to publicly testify in front of the panel about the prior administration’s response, a panel spokesperson told The Washington Post.
Peter Navarro, who served as Trump’s trade adviser, and Paul Alexander, a former communications aide at the Department of Health and Human Services, have previously rebuffed the panel’s requests. Jerome Adams, who served as U.S. surgeon general during the Trump administration, separately testified last year about vaccine hesitancy.
Birx in October privately sat for a two-day interview with the House panel, where she told congressional staff that the 2020 election “distracted” Trump officials from managing the pandemic response. She also detailed episodes of political interference that she said hampered officials from issuing clear warnings and guidance about the risks of the virus.
Republicans have said that the Democrat-led House panel has been overly focused on the Trump administration’s missteps and called on the subcommittee to more aggressively investigate the Biden administration’s coronavirus response.