Democratic leaders accuse Trump team of 'deliberately' withholding information about White House outbreak
Posted October 6, 2020 10:59 a.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2020 11:01 a.m. EDT
CNN — Senate Democratic leaders charged Tuesday that the White House has been "opaque and secretive" in providing information about the coronavirus outbreak that sickened President Donald Trump and several other people at the White House, demanding details about the timeline and contending that details are being "deliberately withheld in order to minimize public scrutiny."
In a letter sent Tuesday to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Democratic leaders add their voice to the growing chorus of calls for details that could shed light on whether scores of people who have been on White House grounds -- US Secret Service, White House and congressional officials, journalists and others -- have taken the necessary precautions in case they were exposed to the virus.
The letter, provided to CNN, notes that Trump's team has not divulged when they first learned of the outbreak at the White House, suggesting that the failure to release the information is an intentional attempt to avoid public criticism, given that Trump carried on with a number of public activities last week -- including a campaign rally in Minnesota, a fundraiser in New Jersey and a debate with former Vice President Joe Biden.
"The opaque and secretive handling of information related to these events constitutes an obvious threat to public health and is unacceptable in a free nation whose elected leaders must be transparent with and accountable to the American people," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"It is critical that the public and those who may have been exposed have access to accurate and transparent information," the Democrats said in the letter.
The letter came within hours after it was reported that the White House had turned down offers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help investigate the outbreak at the complex and to begin contact tracing of those who attended events with the President, like the crowded Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett last Saturday.
"The White House has plans and procedures in place that incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure and has established a robust contact tracing program led by the White House Medical Unit with CDC integration," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.