Health and Science

Trump calls emergency meeting with top health officials at White House, lawmaker says

Key Points
  • Trump has summoned top U.S. health officials to an emergency meeting at the White House on Wednesday, a top lawmaker said.
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said a hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response had to be cut short as a result.
  • A White House official later told reporters the meeting was scheduled Tuesday as "part of the Administration's ongoing whole-of-government response to the Coronavirus."
  • But Maloney pushed back on that claim, saying, "There seems to be a great deal of confusion and a lack of coordination at the White House."
President Donald Trump makes remarks to the media in the Capitol after attending the Senate Republican Policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

President Donald Trump has summoned top U.S. health officials to an emergency meeting at the White House Wednesday, cutting a hearing on Capitol Hill short, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

"This morning we were informed that President Trump and Vice President Pence have called our witnesses to an emergency meeting at the White House. We don't know the details, just that it's extremely urgent," Maloney, D-NY, said before opening the hearing on the nation's preparedness and response to the coronavirus outbreak that has swept across the nation.

Maloney said the witnesses needed to leave by 11:45 a.m. ET, significantly cutting short lawmakers' opening statements so they can get in enough questions before the witnesses had to leave.

Speakers at the hearing include Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, CDC Director Robert Redfield, and Terry Rauch, director of the defense medical research and development program for the National Institute of Health. Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response for the Department of Health and Human Services, is also scheduled to testify along with Chris Currie, the director of emergency management and national preparedness for the Government Accountability Office. 

The White House didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. A White House official later told reporters the meeting was scheduled on Tuesday as "part of the Administration's ongoing whole-of-government response to the Coronavirus."

Maloney fired back at those claims in her closing remarks.

"The White House is telling reporters that this meeting is not an emergency, they are saying it was scheduled yesterday. However, that's not what your staff just told us," she said.

"I don't know what's going on at the White House," Maloney said. "There seems to be a great deal of confusion and a lack of coordination at the White House. I hope this does not reflect on the broader response to this crisis."

A senior Democratic committee aide, who declined to be named, told CNBC that the Department of Health and Human Services only informed the Oversight panel about the meeting on Wednesday morning.

Committee members of both parties also requested the speakers return at 2 p.m. after the emergency meeting to continue the hearing, after criticizing them for being underprepared to answer lawmakers' questions. It was not immediately clear if the officials would return. 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. At least 29 people in the U.S. have died after contracting the virus. Almost half of all U.S. cases are in Washington state, California and New York, where the governors have all declared states of emergency to free up funding.

Globally, there are more than 121,200 confirmed cases and at least 4,369 deaths, according to JHU.

Trump and the White House have been trying to put together an economic stimulus plan to mitigate the impact from the outbreak. After a 2,000-point drop by the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday, the index bounced back somewhat Tuesday, rising 1,100 points late in the trading session. The Dow was down by about 850 points in intraday trading Wednesday.