Ten Senate Democrats joined their House colleagues Wednesday in calling for official investigations into federal management of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading the pack, progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote both the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in pursuit of “broad investigations” of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response.
According to a news release from Warren’s office, Democrats allege Trump administration efforts to provide aid to American citizens and state governments have been tailored to fit the “electoral concerns of the President and his political allies,” rather than the needs of the nation.
“The Trump administration has been unable to deliver urgently-needed medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, and has created confusion and distress among states by seizing equipment orders and providing little transparency about decision-making,” the news release stated.
“This confusion has been exacerbated by President Trump’s public statements suggesting that governors’ political support for his administration could influence how much support they receive from the federal government,” Warren wrote in a publicly released excerpt from the letter.
“This obfuscation underscores the need for clarity as to how decisions regarding the seizure and redistribution of supplies are being made, and whether or not they are tainted with political interference.”
Joining Warren in her letter were Sens. Tom Udall, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, Chris Van Hollen and fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
The senators also suggested alleged abuse of power may have extended beyond Trump himself to include such administration figures as the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Concerns had apparently been raised as to whether figures like Kushner — who has aided in overseeing expedited medical supply delivery through FEMA’s Project Airbridge, according to Politico — were funneling supplies to donors and friends of the administration.
No evidence was provided regarding these suspicions, however.
According to the news release, a second letter was also sent by Warren, Blumenthal and Markey to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee — an independent oversight board established by the CARES Act to ensure $2.2 trillion in virus relief funding were properly allocated.
The second letter requests that both the presence of a presidential signature on government aid checks and the president’s daily virus-related White House news briefings — referred to as “crass political propaganda” — be investigated as well.
Any indication of political motives in relief roll-out at these levels, the senators allege, would constitute violations of laws like the Hatch Act, which bar government employees from engaging in campaign-related activity while on the clock.
“(T)hese incidents appear to indicate that the Trump Administration has infused political and partisan interests into its response to both the public health and economic crises,” the senators wrote. “Americans should not have to wonder whether their lives are being put at risk by the President’s concern for his political prospects amidst a public health and economic calamity.”
Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a committee — armed with subpoena power — to oversee Trump’s administration of the CARES Act, while House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has proposed the formation of a commission to investigate the administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Such actions from Democrats, however, have been subject to substantial blowback from across the aisle.
On Monday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy decried Democratic allegations of pandemic relief mismanagement on the part of the Republicans, suggesting it was Democrats who had been “playing politics” with the national emergency.
“Name one thing the speaker has accomplished during this pandemic,” McCarthy told Fox News.
“When President Trump, January 31st, put in the ban in China, [on] February 24th she asked people to gather together in San Francisco. She actually fought the ban,” McCarthy said.
“When we wanted to put the CARES Act together, she came in and held it up. Now, we have a small business program working, she’s now held up the money.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.