Fauci, CDC Director Redfield to testify at House coronavirus oversight hearing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a briefing on coronavirus in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 (CNN) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, along with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and other government officials will testify Tuesday at a House oversight hearing on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Redfield will appear as witnesses during the hearing. They will be joined by Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir and US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who will also be testifying as witnesses.

All four witnesses are expected to participate in the hearing in person, while members of the committee will participate either in person or remotely via videoconference. The hearing is being convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The hearing comes as the country continues to grapple with the devastating public health consequences of the pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of over 120,000 in the US.

Congressional Democrats have consistently criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the federal response to the pandemic and have argued that insufficient and inadequate testing capacity has hindered the government’s ability to slow the spread.

The spotlight is now on testing once again. In a shocking admission during his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on Saturday night, President Donald Trump said he had told officials in his administration to slow down coronavirus testing because of the rising number of cases in America.

“You know testing is a double-edged sword,” Trump said while complaining about press coverage of his handling of the virus. Claiming the US has now tested some 25 million people, he added: “Here’s the bad part … when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please.”

Some administration officials have tried to downplay the remark. An administration official told CNN later Saturday that the President was “obviously kidding,” and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that the remark was made in jest.

Top congressional Democrats, however, have seized on the remark with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointing to Tuesday’s hearing as an opportunity for answers.

“The President’s efforts to slow down desperately needed testing to hide the true extent of the virus mean more Americans will lose their lives,” Pelosi said in a statement over the weekend.

“This Tuesday, members of the Trump Administration’s coronavirus task force will testify before the Energy & Commerce committee. The American people are owed answers about why President Trump wants less testing when experts say much more is needed,” she said.

Fauci and Redfield were both named to the administration’s coronavirus task force in January.

The task force was, at the start of the pandemic, a public-facing panel of health and agency officials, holding press briefings nearly every day and appearing in frequent national television interviews.

But in May, as the White House prioritized its economic message, health officials on the panel became less visible, appearing in fewer national TV interviews.

During that month, the White House blocked Fauci from testifying before House lawmakers.

At the time, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere confirmed the move, saying, “While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings.”