White House blocks Navarro from testifying before Congress about ventilator contract

Democrats say the now-canceled deal would have wasted an "astonishing" $500 million.
Image: Peter Navarro
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro last month. Andrew Harnik / AP file

WASHINGTON — White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is refusing to testify before a House subcommittee about a canceled contract for ventilators that Democrats say would have wasted more than $500 million.

"Despite the astonishing scale of this waste; the loss of more than 190,000 lives; and his willingness to appear on the cable news shows of his choice — Mr. Navarro refuses to appear before Congress to answer for his actions," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, said in a statement Monday.

This comes after an interview Navarro did with CNN on Sunday went off the rails when it was cut short after he argued with host Jake Tapper about the revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book last week that President Donald Trump intentionally downplayed the coronavirus in the early months of the pandemic.

Krishnamoorthi said that the contract with company Philips Respironics would have wasted $504 million. He said the hearing, which was set for Wednesday, is now canceled.

Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to the president, wrote in a letter to Krishnamoorthi last week stating that the White House declines the invitation to make Navarro available for testimony because "in accordance with long-standing Executive Branch precedent presidential advisers generally do not testify in Congress."

Last week, Krishnamoorthi said in an interview on MSNBC that Navarro "botched" the contract with Philips and lawmakers want to know "what else is out there in terms of wasteful spending in other pandemic procurement efforts."

HHS canceled some of these ventilator contracts at the beginning of September, announcing in a statement that the national stockpile had reached its maximum capacity for ventilators, with nearly 120,000 available for deployment.