Trump says Fauci will testify before Senate, blasts House ‘setup’
The president’s remarks contradict a new directive from his own White House.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed Dr. Anthony Fauci would testify before the Senate in the coming days and defended his decision to block America’s top infectious disease expert from appearing before what he called the “Trump haters” in the House.
“The House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee. The same old stuff,” the president told reporters outside the White House, adding that Fauci “will be testifying in front of the Senate, and he looks forward to doing that.”
Trump went on to accuse congressional Democrats of hoping for his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to falter, claiming those lawmakers “want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death,” and “want us to fail so they can win an election which they’re not going to win.”
The president’s comments corroborate previous reports that Fauci would likely testify before the Republican-controlled Senate sometime next week, as well as House Democrats’ statement last Friday that the White House had halted Fauci from appearing before the House Appropriations Committee this week.
But Trump’s remarks regarding Fauci’s testimony also undermine new guidance by his own White House to limit congressional access to members of the administration’s coronavirus task force.
In a memo to House and Senate staff directors — a copy of which was provided to POLITICO by a source who had obtained it — the White House Office of Legislative Affairs said “no Task Force members, or key deputies of Task Force members, may accept hearing invitations” for the remainder of the month.
“Exceptions may be made only with the express approval” of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the memo read.
Earlier Tuesday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway warned Democratic lawmakers against conducting their “usual fishing expedition” if they hear testimony from Fauci, and said his prospective appearance on Capitol Hill should not mirror Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings — which were marred by allegations of sexual assault.
“I just hope that the people who are asking the questions are asking intelligent, rational questions that are actually relevant to the American health, because we’ve seen what they do before,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.”
“For example, they say stupid things like, ‘This is a job interview — this is a job interview for a lifetime appointment’ about Brett Kavanaugh. ‘Let's believe all women’ — or at least those three women, most of whom then retracted or didn't have corroborating evidence,” she added.
Conway said she hoped lawmakers would break with what she characterized as a pattern of partisan inquiries launched by Democrats that included last year’s impeachment inquiry and earlier probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“We had two years of collusion nonsense, then we tried to impeach a president, remove him from office,” she said. “None of that worked. It better be about health.”
Still, Conway left open the possibility that Fauci or other task force members could appear before Congress this month, arguing that their testimony “would shed a great deal of light.”
“Listen, if the president has no problem with that, there’s no executive privilege attached to that based on the task force conversations, then I’ll leave that to the lawyers and to the different testifiers,” she said.
But Conway declined to conclusively state “one way or the other” that Fauci would testify before the Senate and not testify before the House, again deferring to the administration’s attorneys. “If they were to say yes to that — and I didn’t say they said yes to that — then I certainly hope people would make good time,” she said.
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.