House panel: Trump sought to pressure FDA on covid vaccines, treatment


Trump officials repeatedly stalled the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to extend safety studies of coronavirus vaccines in fall 2020, as then-President Donald Trump pressed the agency for a faster timeline so the vaccines could be authorized before Election Day, according to emails, text messages and interviews conducted by a congressional panel probing the pandemic response.

White House officials such as trade adviser Peter Navarro and outside allies such as TV host and physician Mehmet Oz also pressed federal officials in 2020 to authorize hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, with Navarro and a deputy working behind-the-scenes with a hospital to craft a request to FDA for widespread access to the debunked therapy touted by Trump, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The report offers new details on contemporaneous reports about the Trump White House’s efforts to sway FDA in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, a pressure campaign that rattled agency officials and threatened to undermine confidence in vaccines and other medical treatments, former commissioner Stephen Hahn told the panel.

“I felt very strongly about the fact that our scientists had created this [vaccine] guidance, I totally supported the science and the clinical data behind it, and I objected to any suggestion that it be changed,” Hahn said in a January 2022 interview that the panel made newly public. “I also felt any changes would be obviously reported and would further reduce vaccine confidence.”

Officials and public health experts have also said that Trump’s attacks on FDA left lingering scars on the agency and contributed to fading trust in health officials responding to the pandemic across the government.

“These assaults on our nation’s public health institutions undermined the nation’s coronavirus response — and are precisely why we must never again settle for leaders who prioritize politics over keeping Americans safe,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the panel’s chair, said in a statement.

Republicans have decried the Democrat-led panel’s work as politically motivated and vow to launch their own investigations into Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, and the Biden administration’s coronavirus response, should they retake one or both chambers of Congress this fall.

“For over two years, congressional Democrats have refused to hold a single hearing on the origins of COVID, or our government’s possible financial involvement in gain-of-function research. That will change when House Republicans take the majority next year,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the panel’s top Republican, wrote in a statement Monday, after Fauci announced he was stepping down in December.

The House report issued Wednesday focuses on…

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