Clyburn subpoenas Azar, Redfield

Clyburn subpoenas Azar, Redfield

December 21 , 2020

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
395 E Street, S.W., Suite 9100
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Azar and Director Redfield:

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis issued subpoenas today compelling
you to produce all of the documents requested by the Select Subcommittee on Se ptember 14,
2020 , relating to efforts by political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) to interfere with scientific work conducted by career officials at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) . The subpoena s requi re you to produce a full and unredacted set
of these documents by December 30 , 2020.

The subpoenas were necessary because the Select Subcommittee’s investigation has
revealed that efforts to interfere with scientific work at CDC were far more extensive and
dangerous than previously known. Documents recently obtained by the Subcommittee show that
over a period of four months , as coronavirus cases and deaths rose ar ound the country , Trump
Administration appointees attempt ed to alter or block at least 1 3 scientific reports related to the
virus . These appointees targeted reports that provided evidence of the virus’s “early spread”
across the country and “massive spread” this summer , which they believed sent ” the wrong
message” about the Administration’s policies . The se appointees also drafted rebuttals aimed at
undercutting CDC’s credibility and provid ing “very re -assuring information … for the White
Hou se.” Top political officials at HHS and CDC not only tolerated these efforts, but in some
cases aided them — even after a senior career official warned that CDC’s scientific writing “needs
to remain an independent process” and that the Administration’s attempts to influence these
reports violated ” long -standing policy .”

Documents show that HHS officials also attempted to muzzle CDC scientists by
retaliating against career employees who provided truthful information to the public and

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 2

targeting CDC staff with what one employee described as a “pattern of hostile and threatening
behavior .”

These unprecedented efforts to influence CDC’s reports and bully its staff occurred at the
same time HHS officials were privately advocating for a “herd immunity” strategy to spread the
coronavirus widely among Americans, as the Select Subcommittee revealed in a December 16,
2020, staff memo randum .1 The Select Subcommittee needs to obtain all the documents sought in
its September 14 request to understand who in the Trump Administration was responsible for this
political pressure campaign, whether it was intended to cripple the nation’s coronavirus res ponse
in a misguided effort to achieve herd immunity , and what steps must be taken to end this
outrageous conduct and protect American lives .

HHS has made clear that it will not provide a timely and complete response to the Select
Subcommittee’s requests on a voluntary basis. Although t he Select Subcommittee has made
extensive efforts to obtain cooperation over the last three months , HHS continues to withhold
responsive documents related to senior HHS and CDC officials . Evidence obtained by the Select
Su bcommittee last week indicates that Director Robert Redfield instructed employees to destroy
a key document in the Select Subcommittee’s investigation , raising the possibility that other
evidence may have been hidden or destroyed. HHS is also blocking the Select Subcommittee
from interviewing five key witnesses, including Director Redfield, his principal deputy, and his
acting chief of staff .2 For th ese reasons and those set forth below, the Select Subcommittee had
no choice but to issue subpoenas compelling production of documents that have been withheld
by HHS and CDC since September.

I. THE ADMINISTRATION’S CAMPAIGN TO INTERFERE IN CDC SCIENTIFIC
REPORTS WAS MORE EXTENSIVE AND DANGEROUS THAN PREVIOUSLY
KNOWN

Spearheaded by HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo and his
Senior Advisor , Paul Alexander, efforts to influence or block CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report (MMWR) and other scientific publications went on for months and involved
numerous high -level officials at CDC and HHS.

In a December 7, 2020, transcribed interview with Select Subcommittee staff , MMWR
Editor -in-Chief Charlotte Kent confirmed that Dr. Al exander contacted her directly on numerous

1 Memorandum from Majority Staff to Members, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis,
Supplemental Memorandum on Investigation into Political Interference with Coronavirus Response (Dec. 16, 2020)
(online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Staff%20Report%20re%20Political%20
Messaging%20and%20Herd%20Immunity.pdf).
2 Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Press Release: Select Subcomm ittee Investigation Finds
Evidence Career CDC Officials Were Directed to Destroy Record of Political Interference by Trump Administration
(Dec. 10, 2020) (online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/news/press -releases/select -subcommittee -investigation –
finds -evidence -career -cdc -officials -were).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 3

occasions to pressure her to make changes to MMWR s and to seek a larger role in the review
process , in violation of longtime CDC and HHS policy to maintain the independence of these
reports. She said she “felt it was important to respond ” to his demands , but said that
Dr. Alexander’s efforts, if successful, would have impacted the integrity of CDC’s scientific
work . She explained , “if we chose to collaborate with Dr. Alexander, there could be a perception
that that was influencing the scientific integrity of MMWR, and that was something that we were
not going to do.” 3

HHS has falsely claimed that Dr. Kent’s testimony shows that there was no political
interference with MMWRs. 4 To the contrary, as demonstrated by the transcript, Dr. Kent stated
that she was “surprised” that Dr. Alexander sought to make changes to MMWRs, that his efforts
were “not typical,” and that she raised the issue to her superiors’ attention “because it was an
unusual situation.” 5 Dr. Kent’s testimony and documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee
show that she and other career officials were f orced to fend off more than a dozen attempts to
influence CDC’s scientific publications, and in some cases were instructed to make changes
recommended by political officials. To the extent career staff were successful in limiting the
damage, as Dr. Kent s tated she was, that is a testament to the career staff’s integrity and
resilience — not an indication that the Trump Administration’s political pressure tactics were
appropriate or scientifically sound.

Former CDC Chief of Staff Kyle McGowan , who was at CDC wh en this pressure
campaign began, recently confirmed that HHS appointees attempted to interfere in the
publication of MMWRs , saying that Dr. Alexander “absolutely put pressure on the CDC on
different guidance documents, on MMWRs ,” an d that these efforts ” delayed MMWRs from
getting them out as quickly as possible to be effectiv e.”6

A. Despite Warning from Career Staff, HHS Attempted to Interfere with More
than 12 Coronavirus Reports from May to September 2020

Documents reveal that efforts by HHS officials to interfere in CDC scientific reports ,
with the apparent goal of help ing President Trump politically , began in May 2020 and continued
3 Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf) at 65 1
– 654 , 16 19 – 1622 .
4 Letter from Sarah C. Arbes, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of Health and Human
Services, to Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (Dec. 15, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house. gov/files/FINAL%20Clyburn%20TI%20Response
%2020201215.pdf ).
5 Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf) at 648
– 654, 1460 – 14 63, 1503 – 1518, 1551 – 1572 ; see also id. at 1792 – 1803.
6 ‘We Want Them Infected’: Trump Appointee Demanded ‘Herd Immunity’ Strategy, Emails Reveal ,
Politico (Dec. 16, 2020) (online at www.politico.com/news/2020/12/16/trump -appointee -demanded -herd -immunity –
strategy -446408).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 4

through mid -September — despite an early warning from a career official that these actions
violated longstanding policies intended to protect the scientific independence of CDC reports .

On May 22, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote to HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Bill Hall, the
top career official in HHS’s Public Affairs Office, requesting that CDC alter the title and
co ntents of an upcoming MMWR, entitl ed, ” Evidence for Early Spread of COVID -19 Within the
United States, January – February 2020 .” Dr. Alexander explained that he had discussed the
matter with Mr. Caputo and wanted to insert language praising what he called the
Administration’s “[s]trong mitigation and containment measures .” He also asked to revise the
report’s title, which he claimed was ” mislea ding and little infla mming [sic]” because it indicated
that ” COVID was in US prior to when it was first detected etc.” 7 Ult imately, CDC did not add
the reference to the Administration ‘s actions but did change the report ‘s title in a manner that
downplayed the report’s key finding. The revised title was: “Evidence of Limited Early Spread
of COVID -19 Within the United States, January -February 2020.” 8

On June 5, 2020, Dr. Alexander wrote to Mr. Caput o, Mr. Hall, and other HHS officials
seeking to insert language into another CDC study related to coronavirus prevention. Mr. Hall
wrote back:

The MMWR is a peer -reviewed journal no different than, say, JAMA or NEJM,
and, like those journals, the text of articles is negotiated between the submitting
authors and the MMWR editorial team. The article has already been published
and been distributed . [The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs] is
not a science or medical program office and, as matter of long -standing policy,
we do not engage in clearing scientific articles, as that arena needs to remain
an independent process. 9

Despi te receiving this admonishment from a senior career official , Dr. Alexander began
reaching out to CDC officials directly, attempting to alter the contents of at least 11 other
scientific reports, including the following:

7 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Bill Hall,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Healt h and Human Services (May 22, 2020) (SSCC –
008869 – 71) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.05.22%20SSCC -0008869 –
71_Redacted.pdf) .
8 Dr. Michelle A. Jorden, et al., Evidence for Limited Early Spread of C OVID -19 Within the United States,
January -February 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (June 5, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6922e1.htm) (emphasis added) .
9 Email from Bill Hall, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, D epartment of Health and Human
Services to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (June 5, 2020)
(SSCC -0007790 – 92) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.05%20S SCC -0007790 –
92_Redacted.pdf) (emphasis added) .

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 5

o A July 3 MMWR regarding character istics of adult inpatients and outpatients with
coronavirus ;10

o An MMWR regarding hydroxychloroquine prescription trends , originally
scheduled for release on June 30 but not published until September 4 ;11

o A July 14 MMWR on the use of cloth face covering s among adults during the
pandemic ;12

o A July 2 4 MMWR regarding underlying medical conditions associated with the
risk of severe COVID -19 ;13

o A July 31 MMWR regarding efforts to mitigate coronavirus transmission during
the April 7 primary election in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ;14
10 Dr. Mark Tenforde, et al., Characteristics of Adult Outpatients and Inpatients with COVID -19 — 11
Academic Medical Centers, United States, March -May 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 3,
2020) (online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6926e3.htm); Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the
Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor,
Department of Health and Human Services (June 2 2, 2020) (SSCCManual -000106 – 09) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.22%20SSCCManual -000106 –
09_Redacted.pdf ).
11 Dr. Lara Bull -Otterson, et al., Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Prescribing Pattern s by Provider
Specialty Following Initial Reports of Potential Benefit for COVID -19 Treatment — United States, January -June
2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Sept. 4, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6935a4.htm); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of
Health and Human Services, to Nina Witkofsky, Senior Advisor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and
Michael Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services (June 29 , 2020)
(SSCC -0007294 – 305) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.29%20SSCC -0007294 –
305_Redacted.pdf ).
12 Dr. Kiva A. Fischer, et al., Factors Associated with Cloth Face Covering Use Among Adults Dur ing the
COVID -19 Pandemic — United States, April and May 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 17,
2020) (online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6928e3.htm); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor,
Department of Health and Human Services , to Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention , et al. (July 14, 2020) (SSCC -0006018 – 24) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.14%20SSCC -0006018 –
24_Redacted.pdf ).
13 Hilda Razzaghi, et al., Estimated County -Level Prevalence of Selected Underlying Medical Conditions
Associated with Increased Risk for S evere COVID -19 Illness — United States, 2018 , Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report (July 24, 2020) (online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6929a1.htm); Email from
Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Paul
Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (July 21, 2020) (SSCCManual -000094
– 97) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.21%20SSCCManual -000094 –
97_Redacted.pdf ).
14 Dr. Heather Paradis, et al ., Notes from the Field: Public Health Efforts to Mitigate COVID -19
Transmission During the April 7, 2020 Election – City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March 13 -May 5, 2020 ,
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report ( July 31, 2020), Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (online at

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 6

o A July 31 MMWR regarding vaccination among children in New York City
during the pandemic ;15

o An MMWR scheduled for early release on July 29 regarding a coronavirus
outbreak among children attending an overnight summer camp in Georgia , which
was delayed until after Director Redfield testified before the Select
Subcommittee ;16

o An August 14 MMWR, originally scheduled for release on August 7, regarding
hospitalization rates for children diagnosed with the coronavirus ;17

o An Augu st 14 MMWR, originally scheduled for release on August 7, regarding
multi -inflammatory syndrome in children with coronavirus ;18

www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930a4.htm); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of
Health and Human Services, to Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branc h, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (July 27, 2020) (SSCC -0005359 – 63) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27%20SSCC -0005359 –
63_Redacted.pdf ).
15 Marisa Langdon -Embry, et al., Notes from th e Field: Rebound in Routine Childhood Vaccine
Administration Following Decline During the COVID -19 Pandemic — New York City, March 1 -June 27, 2020 ,
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 31, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930a3.ht m); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of
Health and Human Services, to Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (July 27, 2020) (SSCC -0005359 – 63) (online at
https://corona virus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27%20SSCC -0005359 –
63_Redacted.pdf ).
16 Christine M. Szablewski, et al., SARS -CoV -2 Transmission and Infection Among Attendees of an
Overnight Camp — Georgia, June 2020 , Morbidity and Mortal ity Weekly Report (Aug. 7, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6931e1.htm); Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific
Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of
Health and Human Services, et al. (July 28, 2020) (SSCC -0002881 – 88) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.28%20SSCC -0002881 –
88_Redacted.pdf ); Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (on line at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf ) at
1256 – 1259, 1283 – 1305 .
17 Dr. Lindsay Kim, et al., Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Children Aged <18 Years <br />
Hospitalized with Laboratory -Confirmed COVID -19 — COVID -NET, 14 States, March 1 -July 25, 2020 , Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report (Aug. 14, 2020) (online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932e3.htm);
Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Bra nch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (Aug. 6, 2020) (SSCCManual –
000032 – 38) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files /2020.08.06%20SSCCManual -000032 –
38_Redacted.pdf ).
18 Dr. Shana Godfred -Cato, et al., COVID -19 -Associated Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children
— United States, March -July 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Aug. 14, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932e2.htm); Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific
Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior A dvisor, Department of

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 7

o A September 4 MMWR regarding coronavirus outbreaks at four summer camps
in Maine ; and 19

o A September 1 8 MMWR on coronavirus -associated deaths among children,
adolescents, and young adults. 20

Hydroxychloroquine Report

On June 29, 2020, Director Redfield’s Senior Advisor Nina Witkofsky obtained a copy of
a planned June 30 MMWR on hydroxychloroquine and provided it to Mr. Caputo and
Dr. Alexander. 21 The CDC study found that hydroxychloroquine prescriptions increased 80 -fold
between March 2019 and March 2020. 22 Hydroxychloroquine — which President Trump lauded
as a “miracle” treatmen t for the coronavirus — received Emergency Use Authorization by the
Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus in March 2020, but this authorization was

Health and Human Services, et al. (Aug. 6, 2020) (SSCCManual -000032 – 38) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.08.06%20SSCCManual -000032 –
38_Redacted.pdf ).
19 Dr. Laura L. Blaisdell, et al., Preventing and Mitigating SARS -CoV -2 Transmission — Four Overnight
Camps, Maine, June -August 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Sept. 4, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6935e1.htm); Email from Michael Iademarco, Director of the Center for
Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Charlotte
Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Aug. 27, 2020)
(SSCCManual_00001 7 – 22) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.08.27%20SSCCManual -000017 –
22_Redacted.pdf ).
20 Dr. Danae Bixler, et al., SARS -CoV -2-Associated Deaths Among Persons Aged <21 Years — United <br />
States, February 12 -July 31, 2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Sept. 18 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6937e4.htm); Email from Nina Witkofsky, Acting Chief of Staff, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, to Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Sci entific Publications Branch, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (Sept. 11, 2020) (SSCCManual_000007 – 10) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.09.11%20SSCCManual -00007 –
10_Redacted.pdf ).
21 Email f rom Madeleine Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Services, to Paul
Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services (June 30, 2020) (SSCC -0007093 – 110)
(online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coro navirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.30%20SSCC –
0007093 -110_Redacted.pdf ). Dr. Kent, the Editor -in-Chief of the MMWR, told the Select Subcommittee that the
full text of articles are not shared outside of CDC. See Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7 , 2020)
(online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf ) at
308, 1053 -1059.
22 Dr. Lara Bull -Otterson, et al., Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Prescribing Patterns by Provider
Specialty Following Initial Reports of Potential Benefit for COVID -19 Treatment — United States, January -June
2020 , Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Sept. 4, 2020) (online at
www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6935a4.htm).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 8

revoked in June after it was determined that the potential harms of the drug outweighed the
benefi ts. 23

Less than an hour after he received a copy of this MMWR , Dr. Alexander sent an email
to Mr. Caputo and Ms. Witkofsky, saying, “Hi Michael, is this not the article we were
shelving ?”24 The following day, a staffer in Mr. Caputo’s office wrote to Ms. Witkofsky,
copying Dr. Alexander, making clear that political officials intended to make changes to the
MMWR:

I am reviewing the MMWR on hydroxychloroquine you sent to Michael
yesterday. There are quite a few edits on it. I forwarded that Word Document to
Paul who is going to look over the MMWR. If you could please keep Dr. Paul
Alexander, who is CC ‘d here, and myself in the loop on this MMWR, it would be
much appreciated. 25

HHS officials went so far as to draft a rebuttal attacking this MMWR . This document —
which does not appear to have been published — argued erroneously that the MMWR “presents
factual information with an agenda” and could “prevent the news from giving the proper
coverage o f a true ‘miracle cure .'” The rebuttal also asserted that “there is no academic value in
this study whatsoever.” 26 The op -ed called the authors of the MMWR “a disgrace to public
service” and accused them of being “self -aggrandizing, looking to grab headl ines” and “ignoring
and [sic] the Americans currently dying from COVID -19 .”27 When a sked about this rebuttal
document during her interview, Dr. Kent stated that she was n ot aware of it at the time but that
23 Trump Tells the Story of a ‘Miracle’ Cure for COVID -19. But Was it? , National Public Radio (Apr. 7,
2020) (online at www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus -live -updates/2020/04/07/829302545/trump -tells -the -story -of-a-
miracle -cure -for -covid -19 -but -was -it); Letter from Rear Admiral Denise M. Hinton, Chief Scientist, Food and Drug
Administration, to Gary L. Disbrow, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services (June
15, 2020) (online at www.fda.gov/media/138945/download).
24 The email attached a journal article regarding hydroxyc hloroquine prescription trends from October 2019
through March 2020, which Dr. Alexander appeared to mistake for the MMWR itself. See Email from Paul
Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Nina Witkofsky, Senior Advisor, Ce nters
for Disease Control and Prevention, and Michael Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of
Health and Human Services (June 29, 2020) (SSCC -0007294 – 305) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.go v/files/2020.06.29%20SSCC -0007294 –
305_Redacted.pdf ).
25 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Madeleine
Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Services (June 30, 2020) (SSCC -0006952 – 53)
(online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.30%20SSCC –
0006952 -53_Redacted.pdf ).
26 Email from Madeleine Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Services, to
Michael Caputo, Assistant Secr etary for Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Paul Alexander,
Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, and Brad Traverse, Senior Advisor, Department of
Health and Human Services (July 2, 2020) (SSCC -0007178 – 81) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.03%20SSCC -0007178 –
81_Redacted.pdf ).
27 Id.

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
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the rebuttal “could undermine confidence in CDC and in the quality of science that is in
MMWR. “28 The MMWR, originally scheduled for release on June 30 , was published on
September 4 .29 It is not clear whether the final report included edits from HHS.

Report on Outbreak at Georgia Su mmer Camp

On July 26, 2020, Dr. Kent circulated a summary of a draft report on a coronavirus
outbreak at a Georgia summer camp to a group of HHS and CDC officials . Dr. Alexander
responded hours later with an eight -point list of questions and comments , asserting that the
report would undermine the Administration’s push to quickly reopen schools. He wrote:

This CDC MMWR also concluded by saying in spite of adhering to CDC
guidance, the spread was massive, with elevated attack rates . … This confuses
me because you, in fact, are CDC a nd the piece reads as if CDC’s own guidance
is not adequate and that even if a school or similar implements most
recommended strategies to prevent transmission, that there will still be massive
spread. I find it incredible this piece would be put out the way it is written at
a time when CDC and its leader Dr. Redfield is trying to showcase the school
re -open guidance and the push is to help schools re -open safely. It just sends
the wrong message as written and actually reads as if to send a message of
NOT to re -open. 30

The following morning, on July 27, HHS officials asked to see a full copy of the report. 31
Later that day, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat instructed Dr. Kent to remove the
opening sentence of the abstract , which stated that understanding transmission of the virus
among children “is critical for developing guidance for schools and institutes of higher
education .”32
28 Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.c oronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf ) at
14 71 – 1483 .
29 Id. at 76 5 – 802 .
30 Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Departm ent of Health and Human Services, et al. (July 28, 2020)
(SSCC -0002881 – 88) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.28%20SSCC -0002881 –
88_Redacted.pdf ) (emphasis added).
31 Email from Michael Beach, Associate Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Charlotte
Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Henry Walke,
Incident Manager for COVID -19 Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 27, 2020)
(SSCCManual -000064 – 70) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27%20SSCCManual -000064 –
70_Redacted.pdf ).
32 Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 27,
2020) (SSCC Manual_00071 ) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democr ats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27.2%20SSCCManual –

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 10

The revised abstract eliminated this reference to schools and colleges , replacing it with a
sentence asserting that ” [l] imited data are available about transmission” of the coronavirus
among youth. In an email to Dr. Alexander, copying D irector Redfield and others , Dr. Kent
explained :

In response to thoughtful comments from CDC leadership and you, the opening
sentence of Georgia’s report has been reframed. The opening sentence was the
only reference to schools or institutions of higher learning in the report, and
reference to them has been removed. 33

Director Redfield also inserted two changes to the MMWR, although HHS has not
provided the Select Subcommittee with document ation of these changes .34

Th e initial release of the MMWR , originally set for July 29, was delayed to July 31 at the
direction of Director Redfield and HHS. 35 Dr. K ent informed the Select Subcommittee that she
understood this delay was due to D irector Redfield’s scheduled testimony before the Select
Subcommittee on the morning of July 31, adding that “there were some very important things
that they wanted to convey d uring that meeting.” 36 At the July 31 hearing, D irector Redfield
testified of the “very significant public health consequences of the school closure,” but did not

000071_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (July
28, 2020) (SSCC -0002881 – 88) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.28%20SSCC -0002881 –
88_Redacted.pdf ).
33 Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Br anch, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (July 28, 2020)
(SSCC -0002881 – 88) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/20 20.07.28%20SSCC -0002881 –
88_Redacted.pdf ) (emphasis added).
34 Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to MMWR staff (July 27, 2020) (SSCCManual -000086 – 93) (online at
https://coron avirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27%20SSCCManual -00086 –
93_Redacted.pdf ).
35 Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to Michael Iademarco, Directo r of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 28, 2020) (SSCCManual -000059 – 61) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.28%20S SCCManual -000059 –
61_Redacted.pdf ).
36 Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf) at
1256 – 1259 , 128 3 – 13 05.

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 11

discuss the CDC study, which found that the virus spread widely among children at the Georgi a
summer camp. 37

At the same time they sought to influence the text of the MMWR, HHS officials also
coordinated to rebut the report’s key finding that children can transmit the virus to each other and
to adults . On July 27, Dr. Alexander wrote to Mr. Caputo, Ms. Witkofsky, and HHS Senior
Advisor Brad Traverse regarding a rebuttal piece he was asked to draft:

Hi Michael, as requested, here is the piece to rebut that poor CDC MMWR…I am
not sure where it can be p ublished but this has very re -assuring information and
even for the White House . You can now tweak this how you wish .38

The op -ed, which went through several drafts at HHS but does not appear to have been
published, sought to downplay the risk of child ren transmitting the coronavirus and reaffirm the
Administration’s position that schools should quickly and fully reopen .39

HHS’s attacks on this MMWR continued the following week. On August 8, 2020,
Dr. Alexander demanded that D irector Redfield and Mr. Caputo intervene to alter this report,
along with a second MMWR, or stop the publication of all MMWRs. 40 As described in my
December 10, letter, Dr. Kent told the Select Subcommi ttee she was ordered to delete this email,
and that she unde rstood the direction to delete the email came from Director Redfield. 41
37 Select Subcommit tee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Hearing on “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to
Contain the Coronavirus” (July 31, 2020) (online at https:// coronavirus.house.gov/subcommittee –
activity/hearings/hybridhearing -urgent -need -national -plan -contain -coronavirus).
38 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Michael
Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (July 27, 2020)
(SSCC -0002911 – 13) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.27%20SSCC -0002911 –
13_Redacted.pdf ).
39 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Madeleine
Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Services (July 31, 2020) (SSCC -0003286 – 93)
(online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.31%20SSCC –
0003286 -93_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Healt h and Human
Services, to Michael Caputo, Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, et al.
(Aug. 2, 2020) (SSCC -0005298 – 301) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.08 .02%20SSCC -0005298 –
01_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to
Madeleine Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (Aug. 5, 2020) (SSCC –
0008029 – 33) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.08.05%20SSCC -0008029 –
33_Redacted.pdf ).
40 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Michael
Caputo, Assistant Secretary for Public Af fairs, Department of Health and Human Services, and Robert Redfield,
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Preventi on, et al. (Aug. 8, 2020) (online at
www.politico.com/f/?id=00000176 -4d5e -d3e7 -a3ff -dfde870a0000).
41 Letter from Chairman James E. Clybur n, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II and Directo r Robert R. Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 12

Although Director Redfield did not accede to Dr. Alexander’s demand to alter the report or halt
publication of all MMWRs , Dr. Alexander continued to reach out to Dr. Kent seeking to
influence other MMWRs following this incident. 42

B. Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Attempted to Retaliate Against CDC
Officials

Evidence obtained by the Select Subcommittee shows that Mr. Caputo aggressively
bullied and retaliated against CDC staff who provided truthful information to the press without
his permission and that Director Redfield was aware of this behavior.

Retaliation for Revealing Advertising Campaign

In June 2020, a CNN reporter wrote to Mr. Caputo , asking whether “Operation Warp
Speed is working on a vaccine education campaign .” Mr. Caputo refused to confirm the story,
claiming it wa s “wildly incorrect .” The reporter then followed up, noting that a career CDC
official had referred h er to Mr. Caputo and indicated that Mr. Caputo himself was
“spearheading” the campaign. 43

Mr. Caputo then excoriated the career official for providing truthful information to CNN,
writing , “In what world did you think it was your job to announce an Administration public
service announcement to CNN?” He later followed up, stating, “We will discuss this on a
teleconference tomorrow. I want your HR representative in attendance .” Mr. Caputo adde d
Director Redfield to the exchange, writing, “I’m adding Dr Redfield back in this email exchange.
Do not remove him again.” 44

Retaliation for Discussing Removal of Hospital Data Collection from CDC

In July 2020 , a senior CDC scientist was interviewed by NPR about the Administration’s
decision to strip CDC of its longstanding role in collecting hospital data — which experts warned
could cause researchers, reporters, and the public to lose access to crucial data needed to combat

Prevention (Dec. 10, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats .coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020 -12 –
10.Clyburn%20to%20HHS%20re%20Redfield%20%281%29.pdf).
42 See, e.g. , Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, to Noah Aleshire, Associate Director for Policy and Strategy, Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (Sept. 17, 2020) (SSCCManual -000001 – 02) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.09.17%20SSCCManual -000001 –
02_Redacted.pdf ).
43 Email fro m Communications Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Kate Galatas,
Deputy Communications Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Communications Specialist,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (June 27, 2020) (SSCCManual -000186 – 89) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.27%20SSCCManual -000186 –
89_Redacted.pdf ).
44 Id.

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 13

the pandemic . The scientist, Dr. Daniel Pollock, explained in the interview that CDC had a
successful “track record ” and ” expertise ” in collecting this data. 45

When Mr. Caputo learned the interview occurred without his personal permissio n,
he called the action “reckless,” and demanded to know the name of the CDC press officer
who arranged it, warning CDC ‘s senior staff: “If you disobey my directions, you will be
held accountable. ” Following Mr. Caputo’s outburst, CDC Deputy Communications
Director Kate Galatas informed Mr. Caputo that the incident was caused by a mistake and
that CDC was planning to issue the employee a “formal letter of reprimand.” She then
sought assistance from Director Redfield and his Chief of Staff for assistance in handling
Mr. Caputo’s demands , stating: “Please intervene and have someone else at CDC send
the appropriate program person’s name to Mr. Caputo … I respectively request that you
no t require me to do so. ” 46

Ms. Galatas also wrote to HHS’s Deputy Chief Counsel about Mr. Caputo’s conduct ,
saying , “I see this as a pattern of hostile and threatening behavior directed at me, Michelle
[Bonds, Director of CDC’s Division of Public Affairs], and communication staff at CDC.” 47

C. Senior Administration Officials Allowed Dangerous Interference by
Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander to Continue Until it Became Public

Although HHS and CDC officials have recently tried to distance themselves from
Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander , emails show Trump Admini stration officials were aware of their
conduct for months but took no action until the press became aware of th is behavior and the
Select Subcommittee launched an investigation .

For example, Ms. Witkofsky — a top advisor to Director Redfield who became Acting
Chief of Staff in August 2020 — worked closely with Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander beginning in
June 2020 to f acilitate their efforts to obtain and review MMWR s prior to their release .48 Both
45 White House Strips CDC of Data Collection Role for COVID -19 Hospitalizations , N ational Public Radio
(July 15, 2020) (online at www.npr.org/sections/health -shots/2020/07/15/891351706/white -house -strips -cdc -of-
data -collection -role -for -covid -19-hospitalizations).
46 Email from Kate Galatas, Deputy Communications Direct or, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
to Robert R. Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. (July 17, 2020) (SSCCManual –
000190 – 95) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/file s/2020.07.17%20SSCCManual -000190 –
95_Redacted.pdf ).
47 Email from Kate Galatas, Deputy Communications Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
to Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. (July 17, 2020)
(SSCCManual -000174 – 79) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.17%20SSCCManual -000174 –
79_Redacted_0.pdf ).
48 Email from Madeleine Hubbard, Special Assistant, Department of Health and Human Ser vices, to Paul
Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services (June 30, 2020) (SSCC -0007093 – 110)
(online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.06.30%20SSCC –
0007093 -110_Redacted.pdf ); see als o Transcribed Interview of Charlotte Kent (Dec. 7, 2020) (online at

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 14

Director Redfield and Ms. Witkofsky were copied on multiple emails in which Dr. Alexander
attempt ed to alter MMWRs and Mr. Caput o bullied CDC career staff. 49

However, no action was taken against Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander until their
disgraceful conduct became public. On September 9, 2020, a reporter from Politico reached out
to HHS seeking comment on concerns regarding Dr. Alexander .50 Two days later, on S eptember
11, Ms. Witkofsky directed Dr. Kent to remove Dr. Alexander — but not Mr. Caputo — from the
distribution list for MMWR summaries. 51 That same day, Politico published a n article revealing
publicly for the first time that Dr. Alexander had tried to cha nge and block MMWRs. 52

On September 14, the Select Subcommittee launched this investigation and requested to
interview both Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander, among others , the following week . Two days
later, on September 16, the Department announced t hat both officials would leave their roles,
with Mr. Caputo taking a leave of absence and Dr. Alexander exiting the Department entirely .53

https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Kent%20Transcript_Redacted.pdf ) at 726
– 729, 804 – 810.
49 See, e.g., Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, D epartment of Health and Human Services, to
Cha rlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , et al. (July
14, 2020) (SSCC -0006018 – 24) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavi rus.house.gov/files/2020.07.14%20SSCC -0006018 –
24_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific Publications Branch, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, to Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (July
28, 2020) (SSCC -0002881 – 88) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.28%20SSCC -0002881 –
88_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Kate Galatas , Deputy Communications Director, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, to Robert R. Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. (July 17, 2020)
(SSCCManual -000190 – 95) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democr ats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.07.17%20SSCCManual -000190 –
95_Redacted.pdf ).
50 Email from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Katherine
McKeogh, Press Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, et al. (S ept. 9, 2020) (SSCC -0008026 – 28)
(online at https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.09.09%20SSCC –
0008026 -28_Redacted.pdf ).
51 Email from Michael Iademarco, Director of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and La boratory
Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Charlotte Kent, Chief of the Scientific P ublications Branch,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Sept. 11, 2020) (SSCCManual -000016) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/de mocrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.09.11%20SSCCManual –
000016_Redacted.pdf ).
52 Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid -19 , Politico (Sept. 12, 2020) (online at
www.politico.com/news/2020/09/11/exclusive -trump -officials -interfered -with -cdc -reports -on -covid -19 -412809 ).
53 HHS Spokesman Caputo to Take Medical Leave After Reportedly Accusing CDC Officials of Plotting
Against Trump , CNBC (Sept. 16, 2020) (online at www.cnbc.com/2020/09/16/hhs -spokesman -caputo -to-take –
medical -leave -after -report edly -accusing -cdc -officials -of-plotting -against -trump.html).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 15

II. TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S REFUSAL TO COOPERATE

As explained in my December 10, 2020, letter to you, the S elect Subcommittee launched
this investigation more than three months ago, yet HHS has repeatedly refused to provide key
documents and witnesses that the Select Subcommittee needs to complete its inquiry .

A. Refusal to Voluntarily Produce Documents and Witnesses

The Select Subcommittee ‘s September 14 , 2020, letter requested transcribed interviews
with seven HHS and CDC officials beginning on September 2 2, and the production of
documents on September 28 .54

On September 18 , HHS responded, claiming the Select Subcommittee’s requests were
“pretextual” and demanding “additional clarity” on how the request “satisfies the requirement
that oversight inquiries be conducted pursuant to a valid legislative purpose.” 55 The Select
Subcommittee responded on September 22 , explaining that the Select Subcommittee’s
investigation is clearly authorized by House Resolution 935, that ensuring Americans have
access to accurate public health information during the pandemic is an issue that is amenable to
legislation, and that evidence of ongoing political interference at HHS made the investigation
even more urgent .56

HHS wrote back on September 25 , claiming again that the Select Subcommittee’s
requests were “pretextual” and demanding answers to a list of logistical questions .57 Select
Subcommittee staff responded to HHS’s questions by email and asked the Department to
confirm dates for the intervie ws .58 In response, HHS staff claimed on September 28 that the
54 Letter from Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II (Sept. 14, 2020) (online at
coronavirus.house.gov /sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020 -09-
14.Majority%20to%20Azar%20and%20Redfield%20re%20HHS%20 and%20CDC%20on%20Political%20Interfere
nce%20.pdf).
55 Letter from Sarah C. Arbes, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of Health and Human
Services, to Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (Sept. 18, 2020) (onl ine at
coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/Clyburn%20TI%20Request%20Response%20%
28signed%29.pdf).
56 Letter from Chairma n James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Service s Alex M. Azar II (Sept. 22, 2020) (online at
coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020 -09-
22.Clyburn%20to%20Azar%20re%2 0HHS%20TIs%20.pdf).
57 Letter from Sarah C. Arbes, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of Health and Human
Services, to Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (Sept. 25, 2020) (online at
coronavirus.house.gov/si tes/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/09252020%20Clyburn%20TI%20Request%20F
ollow%20Up%20Response.pdf).
58 Email from Staff, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Staff, Department of Health and
Human Services (Sept. 27, 2020).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 16

Department was “assessing witness availability to sit and prepare for interviews.” 59 On October
2, Secretary Azar confirm ed in sworn testimony before the Select Subcommittee that HHS would
soon make documents and witnesses available , stating :

Our staffs are working to secure the agreements on the procedures to make that
happen. We want to make that happen. … I think they’re in the final stages of
getting things arranged. 60

However, i nstead of moving forward with interview arrangements or document
production , HHS staff sent an email to Select Subcommittee staff on October 7 with a series of
new demands, stat ing, “Until these outstanding issues and processes are resolved, it is not
appropriate to commit to specific dates for interviews.” HHS staff also indicated that the
Department planned to withhol d responsive documents from the Select Subcommittee, writing
that HHS “will be conducting document searches and reviewing responsive materials” in
advance of any interviews but “these document pulls are solely for the Department’s use,” and
stating, “The Subcommittee should not expect to receive any documents befor e the transcribed
interviews occur.” 61 Select Subcommittee staff asked HHS to confirm dates for interviews and a
schedule for document production on October 14 and October 21, but HH S refused .

B. Inadequate Document Production Following Subpoena Warning

On October 22, 2020, the Select Subcommittee wrote to HHS , warning that if the
Department did not voluntarily comply, the Select Subcommittee would be forced to consider
issuing subpoenas. 62 On October 27, HHS responded, again questioning the premise of the
Select Subcommittee’s investigation and refusing to commit to a production schedule .63 After
further negotiation, HHS agreed on October 29 to make five witnesses available for transcribe d
59 Email from S taff, Department of Health and Human Services, to Staff, Select Subcommittee on the
Coronavirus Crisis (Sep t. 28, 2020).
60 Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Hybrid Hearing with Secretary of Health and Human
Services Alex M. Azar II (Oct. 2, 20 20) (online at coronavirus.house.gov/subcommittee -activity/hearings/hybrid –
hearing -secretary -health -and -human -services -alex -m-azar -ii).
61 Email from Staff, Department of Health and Human Services, to Staff, Select Subcommittee on the
Coronaviru s Crisis (Oc t. 7, 2020).
62 Letter from Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II (Oct. 22, 2020) (online at
coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.go v/files/2020 -10-
22.Clyburn%20to%20Azar%20re%20TIs%20.pdf).
63 HHS’s letter stated that the Department could begin producing documents on November 9, but only
agreed to provide an “initial” production without revealing what this production would include or w hen the full set
of responsive documents would be provided . Letter from Sarah C. Arbes, Assistant Secretary for Legislation,
Department of Health and Human Services, to Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the
Coronavirus Crisis (Oct. 27, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.10.27%20Clyburn%20C DC%20Inte
rviews%20Response%20 -%20FINAL.pdf ).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 17

interviews — excluding Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander , who were no longer serving in their
previous roles — and to make a full document produc tion by November 23 , writing :

HHS will target November 9 for a complete production of documents for the five
named custodians, as well as others whom we have identified to date. … We will
also commit to target November 23 for a complete production for the remaining
political appointees .64

HHS did not meet the agreed upon production schedule. Instead, the Department slowly
produced a fraction of the requested documents, along with thousands of pages of repetitive,
non -responsive, and redacted materials. For example:

o HHS agreed to pro duce documents from Mr . Azar, D irector Redfield, Mr. Caputo,
Dr. Alexander, and Mr. Traverse by November 9, but the Department’s actual
productions have included a substantial production of emails from just one of
these five custodians — Dr. Alexander.

o Although HHS has produced just over 15,000 pages, thousands of these pages
consist of duplicative copies of public reports and documents that are entirely
non -responsive — including some that are more than a year old and predated the
coro navirus pandemic entirely. 65

o Dozens of pages are entirely redacted and marked “withheld as privileged” —
without any indication of the basis for the redaction or the privilege being
asserted . In one instance, HHS completely redacted more than 50 consecutive
pages without any further explanation. 66

64 Email from Staff, Department of Health and Human Services, to Staff, Select Subcommittee on the
Coronavirus Crisis (Oct. 29, 2020). The five “named custodians” are Alex M. Azar II, Robert R. Redfield, Michael
Caputo, Paul Alexander, and Brad Traverse.
65 See, e.g , Email from Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human
Services, to Robert R. Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. (Aug. 22, 2019) (S SCC –
00013457) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2019.08.22%20SSCC –
00013457_Redacted.pdf ); Email from Robert Levitt to Robert Levitt (Nov. 28, 2019) (SSCC -0013402 – 11 ) (online
at https://coronavirus.house. gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2019.11.28%20SSCC -00013402 –
411_Redacted.pdf ).
66 See SSCC -0002546 – 96 (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/SSCC -0002546 -96.pdf). In another
instance, HHS appears to have withheld a copy of “a paper just published ,” also on the basis of privilege. See Email
from Paul Alexander, Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services, to Michael Pratt, Director of
Strategic Communications and Campaigns, Depa rtment of Health and Human Services, et al. (Aug. 30, 2020)
(SSCC -0014927 – 29) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/2020.08.30%20SSCC -0014927 –
29%20Redacted.pdf ).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 18

HHS has refused to agree to a ny timeframe to complete its production, notwithstanding
the Department’s previous commitment to produce all documents by November 23.

C. Abrupt Cancellation of Interviews Following Troubling Testimony by Career
Official

HHS further obstructed the Select Subcommittee’ s inquiries by abruptly canceling four
transcribed interviews the Department had previously agreed to conduct during the week of
December 7, 2020. HHS canceled these interviews just hours after Dr. Kent revealed in her
interview that Director Redfield may have ordere d staff to delete key evidence of political
interference. 67

The Department claimed that it canceled these interviews because Select Subcommittee
counsel infringed upon the attorney -client privilege by asking Dr. Kent whether, in addition to
being instru cted to delete a key email, she was instructed to withhold any other information from
Congress . This claim has no basis whatsoever. Given the clear evidence that CDC officials
were instructed to delete evidence, the Select Subcommittee has a strong inter est in determining
whether anyone at HHS or CDC ordered staff to obstruct this investigation. Such obstruction is
potentially illegal and is not protected by any privilege. 68

D. Final Warning Letter and HHS’s Refusal to Comply

On December 10, 2020, I wrote to both of you requesting full compliance with the Select
Subcommittee’s outstanding document requests by December 15, and warned that if you did not
comply, I would have no choice but to issue subpoenas to obtain the remainin g documents .69
The letter also asked you to reschedule the four canceled interviews. Finally, in light of the new
evidence that Director Redfield ordered CDC officials to destroy evidence of political
interference, the letter requested additional documen ts by December 15 and a transcribed
interview with Director Redfield on December 17 .

These deadlines have now passed, and HHS did not comply with any of the Select
Subcommittee’s requests. The Department’s document production remains woefully incomplete .
The Department has not reschedule d any of the canceled interviews with senior CDC officials .
67 Letter from Chairman James E. Clyburn, Se lect Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Ser vices Alex M. Azar II and Director Robert R. Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (Dec. 10, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coro navirus.house.gov/files/2020 -12 –
10.Clyburn%20to%20HHS%20re%20Redfield%20%281%29.p df).
68 Moreover, counsel’s questions — which sought information regarding whether anyone instructed Dr. Kent
to withhold information from Congress –did not implicate attorney -client communications.
69 Letter from Chairman James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, to Secretary of
Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II and Director Robert R. Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (Dec. 10, 2020) (online a t
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus .house.gov/files/2020 -12 –
10.Clyburn%20to%20HHS%20re%20Redfield%20%281%29.pdf).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 19
HHS also refused to make D irector Redfield available for a transcribed interview ,
claiming that “a n interview of Dr. Redfield is not warranted at this time . ” 70
Notably, however,
HHS did not refute Dr. Kent’s statement s that she was instructed to delete a key email , that she
understood the instruction came from D irector Redfield, and that the email was in fact deleted
from her inbox by another individual . HHS also did not address the critical questions of whether
D irector Redfield or other political appointees ordered other staff at CDC or HHS to delete or
conceal evide nce of political interference . These are critical questions, and the Select
Subcommittee intends to get answers.
III. ISSUANCE OF SUBPOENA
HHS and CDC have indicated their unwillingness to voluntarily cooperate with the Select
Subcommittee’s investigation. G iven the importance of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation
and the continued obstruction by HHS , subpoena s are necessary.
The Select Subcommittee has a broad man date to investigate “issues related to the
coronavirus crisis,” including the ” preparedness for and response to the coronavirus crisis , ”
“executive branch policies, deliberations, decisions, activities, and internal and external
communications related to the coronavirus crisis , ” and ” cooperation by the executive branch ”
with the Select Subcommittee’s oversight. Political interference in scientific work necessary to
respond to the coronavirus crisis is central to the Select Subcommittee’s mandate and could be
the subject of legislation.
As the Supreme Court has recognized, “The congressional power to obtain inf ormation is
‘broad’ and ‘indispensable.'” 71
The Court has also recognized that the “scope of the power of
inquiry, in short, is as penetrating and far – reaching as the potential power to enact and
appropriate under the Constitution.” 72

For the reasons described in this letter, I have issued subpoena s to both of you to compel
production of all the documents that were first requested by the Select Subcommittee on
September 14, 2020. The subpoena s , which were shared with the Ranking Member more th an
48 hours ago, require you to produce a full and unredacted set of these documents by December
30, 2020.
70
Letter from Sarah C. Arbes, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of Health and Human
Services, to Chairma n James E. Clyburn, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (Dec. 15, 2020) (online at
https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/FINAL%20Clyburn%20TI%20Response
%2020201215.pdf ).
71
Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP , 591 U.S. ___ (2020), quoting Watkins v. United States , 354 U.S. 178
(1957).
72
Barenblatt v. United States , 360 U.S. 109 (1959).

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Page 20
Please note that the Select Subcommittee also expects you to provide a complete
response to the request s in our December 10, 2020 , letter. If you f ail do so, additional subpoenas
may be necessary.
Sincerely,
__________________________
James E. Clyburn
Chairman
cc: The Honorable Steve Scalise, Ranking Member

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