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Coronavirus: White House blocks Fauci from testifying on U.S. response

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-La., about the coronavirus response, in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A spokesman for a key House panel said Friday that the White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying next week at a hearing on the coronavirus outbreak.

House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said the panel sought Fauci — the highly respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — as a witness for a subcommittee hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, but was denied. Hollander said the panel was informed by an administration official that Fauci’s testimony was blocked by the White House.

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He wouldn’t identify who informed the committee that Fauci would not appear.

The White House said Fauci is busy dealing with the pandemic and will appear before Congress later.

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“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,” said White House
spokesman Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to
offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

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Fauci is the top scientist on U.S. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and is no stranger to testifying before Congress. He has sometimes contradicted Trump’s optimistic misstatements about the virus and how much it is under control after claiming more than 64,000 lives in the U.S.

Fauci has warned against relaxing social distancing rules that have helped slow the spread of the virus but caused a major hit to the economy. That has earned him criticism from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, and Trump himself has retweeted a supporter who called for Fauci’s firing.

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