President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his administration blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying in the House because the chamber is full of "Trump haters," contradicting the White House claim that the key health official is too busy to appear at a hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response.
On Friday, the Trump administration said it barred Fauci from testifying at a Wednesday hearing in the Democratic-held House. At the time, White House spokesman Judd Deere said it would be "counter-productive" for the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to attend because he continues to work on the government pandemic response.
The White House then allowed Fauci to testify at a coronavirus response hearing set for next week in the GOP-controlled Senate. Asked Tuesday why the administration barred him from speaking to the House, Trump responded, "Because the House is a set up."
"The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee, the same old stuff," the president told reporters before he left Washington to tour a medical mask factory in Arizona.
"They frankly want our situation to be unsuccessful," he said, appearing to contend without evidence that Democrats want the government pandemic response to fail.
The White House declined to comment on the discrepancy between its explanation and the one Trump offered Tuesday for blocking Fauci's testimony. But Trump's comments indicate political considerations drove his administration to stop a critical health official from speaking to Congress about the government's response to an outbreak that has now infected more than 1.1 million Americans and led to nearly 70,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the White House for stopping Fauci from speaking. She told CNN "I was hoping they would spend more time on the crisis instead of those daily shows that the President put on," referring to the freewheeling briefings Trump held nearly every day in April before backing off of them in May.
She added that "we will be very strictly insisting on the truth and they might be afraid of the truth."
Fauci, who has led NIAID for decades, has offered straightforward updates on the nature of Covid-19 and the government's efforts to combat it throughout the crisis. He has become a more trusted voice on the outbreak than Trump, who has repeatedly shared misleading or inaccurate information about the disease.
Last month, the president retweeted a call to "#FireFauci" after the health official said the U.S. "obviously" could have saved more lives if it acted more swiftly to slow the outbreak's spread.