Report shows Trump 'deliberately and repeatedly' undermined COVID-19 response
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

White House officials during the tenure of former President Donald Trump "deliberately and repeatedly" pressured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize unproven and potentially dangerous Covid-19 treatments, while working to derail the agency's vaccine guidance ahead of the 2020 presidential election, a congressional report published Wednesday revealed.

"Senior Trump administration officials undermined public health experts because they believed doing so would benefit the former president politically."

The report, published by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is the second installment in a series documenting what the panel calls the Trump administration's "rampant political interference with the federal public health response" to a pandemic that has now killed more than 1,040,000 people in the United States.

The publication states that "the Trump administration's nearly yearlong crusade against FDA resulted in damaging consequences for the coronavirus response: Morale inside the agency cratered, and public confidence in FDA's scientific integrity was shaken in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic."

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told the committee that Peter Navarro, who headed the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, "exerted inappropriate pressure" on the FDA to renew the emergency use authorization for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment, even after it was shown to be ineffective and possibly dangerous.

Additionally, Trump officials "sought to generate outside support for hydroxychloroquine by engaging known extremists and prolific conspiracists like former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Dr. Jerome Corsi, and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons."

Furthermore, the report contains extensive new evidence that Trump officials, including Navarro, conducted government business using private email accounts—a potential violation of the Presidential Records Act.

"The select subcommittee's findings that Trump White House officials deliberately and repeatedly sought to bend FDA's scientific work on coronavirus treatments and vaccines to the White House's political will are yet another example of how the prior administration prioritized politics over public health," Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who heads the panel, said in a statement.

"As today's report makes clear, senior Trump administration officials undermined public health experts because they believed doing so would benefit the former president politically—plotting covertly with known conspiracy theorists to dangerously push a disproven coronavirus treatment, bullying FDA to change its vaccine guidance, and advocating for federal investigations into those who stood in their way," he continued.

According to the new report, Trump officials:

  • Orchestrated coordinated pressure campaigns to reauthorize and expand use of hydroxychloroquine;
  • Pushed to authorize use of convalescent plasma—which used blood from people who have recovered from Covid-19—ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention, while "grossly misrepresenting the data" on the therapy; and
  • Attempted to derail the FDA's Covid-19 vaccine guidance ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

"These assaults on our nation's public health institutions undermined the nation's coronavirus response," said Clyburn, "and are precisely why we must never again settle for leaders who prioritize politics over keeping Americans safe."