American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of the investigations into the government’s pandemic response. The project brings together a public documents database, an oversight tracker of important ongoing investigations and litigation, regular news updates, and deeper dives into key issues.
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In the early hours of Friday, President Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady had tested positive for Covid-19. That evening, he was taken to Walter Reed Medical Center, kicking off a whirlwind of confusion about when the White House knew about the diagnosis, about whether he knowingly exposed supporters in Minnesota and New Jersey to the virus, and about the severity of his condition. On Sunday, Trump briefly left the hospital in an armored SUV, riding past and waving at supporters who had gathered outside, for a photo op that endangered both hospital staff and Secret Service officers.
The president’s positive test has been one of many potentially linked to the Rose Garden celebration honoring Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which many have now speculated was a “super spreader” event. In addition to the president and first lady, two Republican senators, Chris Christie, former Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, and — announced Monday afternoon — press secretary Kayleigh McEnany are among the attendees who have tested positive.
Also on Monday afternoon, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that two White House employees on the housekeeping staff had tested positive and been told to use “discretion” in talking about it. The list of people — not just powerful government officials, but servers, cleaners, health-care workers, and journalists — put in danger by the White House’s recklessness and irresponsibility is likely to continue to grow.
Amid the confusion surrounding the White House’s lack of transparency about the president’s condition has come news revealing yet more instances of White House interference with the actions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Border closing: The Associated Press reported that in March, Vice President Mike Pence directed the CDC to use its emergency powers to seal U.S. borders, even though agency scientists opposed the action and said it would not slow the spread of the coronavirus. A former CDC official told AP that in response to this opposition, Pence ordered CDC Director Robert Redfield to use the agency’s legal authority to close borders. This action has caused nearly 150,000 asylum-seekers, including thousands of unaccompanied children, to be expelled from the United States without due process.
Schools reopening: A New York Times investigation revealed that this summer, White House officials pressured the CDC to play down the risks of reopening schools. This included editing documents to minimize the threats to children as well as pushing CDC officials to produce reports arguing that there is a low risk of infection for school-age children and showing a decline in coronavirus cases among young people. A Politico investigation also revealed that administration officials suggested language changes in draft CDC reports about children’s Covid-19 risks, which were then incorporated in final versions.
Scott Atlas: In a phone call overheard by an NBC News reporter last week, Redfield criticized Scott Atlas, a coronavirus task force member who has questioned the efficacy of masks and promoted a “herd immunity” strategy. Redfield was overruled by that same task force last week, when he pushed to extend a “no-sail order” on passenger cruises into 2021. The Trump administration is instead ending the order at the end of this month.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a staff analysis that found at least 47 separate incidents of political interference in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response from February through September 2020. The report includes multiple instances of officials blocking or overruling CDC actions, overriding the FDA, and ignoring advice from scientists — instances that seem to be increasing in number and severity as the election draws nearer.
Early last week, Politico reported that a controversial $300 million Health and Human Services ad campaign was faltering and struggling to book celebrity appearances. During a hearing with the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, HHS Secretary Alex Azar contradicted reports that the campaign’s focus was to “defeat despair” and laid out a three-phase campaign that would focus on encouraging Americans to wash hands, wear masks, and keep a distance; encouraging Americans to get a flu vaccine; and finally promoting a coronavirus vaccine once one is available. He also said he ordered a strategic review of the campaign and that any products coming out of it will be reviewed by the CDC.
For the first time since the pandemic began, Amazon released coronavirus testing data that showed that nearly 20,000 of its frontline workers, including at warehouses and Whole Foods stores, have tested positive or been presumed positive for the coronavirus. Previous news has shown that there have been at least 10 deaths among Amazon warehouse employees who tested positive.
BailoutWatch released a report illustrating how the Federal Reserve’s bailouts have enabled oil and gas companies to sell nearly $100 billion of debt in U.S. markets since late March. The Fed’s emergency measures allowed companies to take advantage of lowered debt costs and extended loan terms. According to the report, some of these companies may not have survived without the Fed’s intervention, and 12 companies that received these loans had been downgraded by credit rating firms this year. The report confirms findings in a September congressional report, which found that fossil fuel companies accounted for 10 percent of the Fed’s bond purchases through the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, though they employ only 2 percent of workers at large companies.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has been tracking Trump’s conflicts of interest, finding more than 3,400 conflicts like his and other officials’ visits to Trump properties, including numerous political and lobbying events in the months since the pandemic began.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) released its quarterly report to Congress detailing its CARES Act oversight. SIGPR stated it had initiated 21 preliminary investigations into allegations of improper activity with regards to CARES Act funds. Of those, SIGPR has referred seven to other IGs with proper jurisdiction, and is currently working one investigation jointly with a partner United States attorney’s office.
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