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'American fiasco': House coronavirus oversight report rips Trump admin's pandemic response

The interim report, which collected information the panel has gathered since April, charges that the administration bungled the response in numerous ways.
Image: Jim Clyburn
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a close Biden ally, at the Capitol last month. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

A House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis blasted the Trump administration's response to the pandemic in a report Friday, calling it "among the worst failures of leadership in American history."

"The virus is a global scourge, but it has been an American fiasco, killing more people in the United States than in any other country," said the report, which the Democratic-run subcommittee of members of both parties released four days before Election Day.

The interim report collected information the panel has gathered since April to charge that President Donald Trump and members of his administration bungled the nation's response to the virus in numerous ways. That includes the president's attempts to downplay the crisis, political interference in the health response, and the mismanagement of funds that Congress secured to combat the pandemic, which opened the door to potentially billions of dollars of fraud while people and businesses in need were shortchanged, the report said.

“This report exhaustively documents what has long been clear: The Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been a tragic failure," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the subcommittee's chair and a top ally of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Biden has campaigned in part on Trump's handling of the pandemic, which has sickened over 9 million and killed almost 230,000 across the country. Trump maintains that he has done "a great job" with the crisis and insists the country is "rounding the corner" in the fight against the virus.

The ranking Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, dismissed the report as "partisan" in a statement, saying it underscores how Democrats have used the panel "to attack President Trump and politicize the pandemic to the detriment of the American people."

Among the report's findings:

  • "President Trump’s decision to mislead the public about the severity of the crisis, his failure to listen to scientists about how to keep Americans healthy, and his refusal to implement a coordinated national plan to stop the coronavirus have all contributed to devastating results."
  • The administration "engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference during the pandemic, repeatedly overruling and sidelining top scientists and undermining Americans’ health in an attempt to benefit the president politically." The subcommittee's investigators "identified at least 61 instances in which Trump administration officials injected politics into public health."
  • "The administration’s implementation of relief programs passed by Congress has also been marred by fraud, waste, and abuse," the report says, and the subcommittee's "investigations identified more than $4 billion in potential fraud in small business programs."
  • The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service mishandled stimulus payments to low-income Americans, leaving those payments unclaimed by 9 million people who might be eligible but never registered to receive them.

The report said the subcommittee is still "investigating questionable contracts and loans that may be hindering the nation’s ability to quickly produce and distribute protective equipment and other supplies needed to contain the virus."

The report includes recommendations on how to solve the issues the panel discovered going forward. These include increasing transparency on the spread of the virus and providing consistent public health advice; implementing a science-based national response plan and ending what it said were efforts to silence or punish federal employees who insist on following science; ensuring low-income people know about their eligibility for aid; and putting additional oversight in place to lessen the risk of fraud and waste in small-business loans and other relief measures.

"While we cannot bring back the more than 225,000 Americans we have lost to this disease, I hope that this report will serve as a wake-up call to make the improvements needed to prevent further unnecessary deaths and deprivation that will occur if the response continues on its current course,” Clyburn said.

Scalise praised Trump's handling of the crisis, calling the Democrats' claims "baseless" and saying Trump's efforts has put the country "on a path to a full recovery."

"From testing to vaccine development to safely reopening our economy and schools, President Trump followed the science to develop national plans that have been rapidly implemented to address an ever-changing situation," he said.