White House failure to contact trace stirs contempt

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts to a question during a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Politicians, public health officials, and commentators are lambasting the White House’s failure to provide adequate contact tracing and guidance for thousands of people whose well-being was jeopardized last week after President Donald Trumptraveled to multiple events around the country, at least one of which he participated in even after knowing that he had been exposed to the coronavirus. 

While the contradictory information shared by the Trump administration and medical team about the chronology and status of Trump’s illness has puzzled observers, critics said it is clear that the president chose to expose potentially thousands of people to Covid-19 last week—particularly by interacting with hundreds of guests at a fundraiser he hosted at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course on Thursday evening—instead of quarantining immediately after the Thursday morning diagnosis of his adviser, Hope Hicks, as Common Dreams reported. 

“The scope of the damage here is unfathomable,” writer Rebecca Traister tweeted on Saturday.

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Not only did Trump and other infected members of his inner circle put possibly thousands of individuals at risk of contracting Covid-19, but according to reportingfrom the Washington Post, “there was little evidence on Saturday that the White House or the campaign had reached out to these potentially exposed people, or even circulated guidance to the rattled staffers within the White House complex.”

“The crisis within a crisis is emblematic of an administration that has often mocked or ignored the coronavirus guidance of its own medical experts,” noted the Post. “In this case, the failure to move swiftly potentially jeopardized the health of their own supporters and those close to them, who might fall ill and unwittingly spread the infection to others.”

Traister pointed out that in addition to Trump’s supporters who voluntarily attended Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination ceremony hosted by the president in the Rose Garden on September 26, his campaign rally in Minnesota on September 30, or his fundraiser in New Jersey on October 1 just hours before the president announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the families of countless workers who had no choice but to go to these infectious events will be subjected to the medical and financial consequences of the Trump administration’s negligence. 

While White House spokesperson Judd Deere claimed Saturday that “contact tracing is underway,” public officials in the states “where Trump held events in recent days… haven’t heard from the White house and are racing largely on there own to find people potentially exposed to the virus,” the Post noted. 

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House panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is halting contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Pence lauds Harris as ‘experienced debater’; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE after the State Department gave the panel documents it had sought.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Pence lauds Harris as ‘experienced debater’; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Coons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to ‘forever chemicals’ MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the panel, said the State Department handed over documents that had been given to Senate Republicans in their investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of ‘Parks and Rec’ reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE as well as those it gave to the Senate after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president’s policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is ‘unwise’ Cast of ‘Parks and Rec’ reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE’s impeachment. 

Engel had subpoenaed the documents and threatened to hold Pompeo in contempt if he did not give them to House Democrats.

“It shouldn’t have taken a subpoena, let alone the threat of contempt, for Secretary Pompeo to comply with the Committee’s oversight request,” Engel said in a statement Friday. “Nevertheless, I’m gratified that we’ve received these materials and can review them before Senate Republicans issue their report.”

The controversy surrounded two batches of documents the House committee had asked the State Department to provide. The first is regarding documents involving the House impeachment investigation into Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine. Engel was also asking for documents the State Department has provided to two Republican-controlled Senate committees that are probing Biden’s work in Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The pressure campaign from Engel came as his committee is investigating Pompeo over whether he has misused government resources for political reasons.

The State Department had initially rebuffed Democrats’ request for documents it sent to the two Senate committees, saying it was not obliged to provide the information on Biden because the foreign affairs panel is investigating Pompeo, not allegations against the former vice president.

Engel repeated past condemnations of the Senate GOP probes, accusing Pompeo of aiding Republicans’ efforts to hurt Biden heading into the presidential election.

“This ‘investigation’ is obviously designed to

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House readies contempt resolution as Pompeo defies subpoenas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Foreign Affairs Committee is moving to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt after he has repeatedly rejected the committee’s subpoenas for records related to Ukraine that the department has turned over to the Republican-led Senate.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Friday that the panel will prepare a contempt resolution because of what he called Pompeo’s “unprecedented record of obstruction and defiance of the House’s constitutional oversight authority.” The House has asked for the same documents that the State Department has turned over for a Senate investigation into Democrat Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his activities in Ukraine, but Pompeo has refused to provide them.

In a letter to Engel this week, the department said Pompeo would turn over the documents if the House panel was investigating, like the Senate, “identical or very similar corruption issues involving Ukraine and corrupt influence related to U.S. foreign policy.” Democrats have said they believe that investigation by the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee is a politically motivated, election-year probe that is aiding Russia’s attempts to sow chaos in American democracy and spreading Russian disinformation.

The department reiterated that position Friday after Engel said he would pursue contempt, saying in a statement that they would provide the materials “with the only condition being that he send a letter explaining what foreign policy issue he is investigating that requires these documents.”

The committee’s contempt resolution will also cite Pompeo’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued during the House impeachment inquiry last year. The House impeached President Donald Trump in December — and the Senate acquitted him in February — for his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden as Joe Biden was running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump. The president and his associates asked Ukraine for the probes as he was withholding military aid to the country.

“Mr. Pompeo is demanding that the committee do essentially the same thing Russia is doing, according the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: ‘spreading claims about corruption’ in order to ‘interfere in the American presidential election,’” Engel said. “In other words, Pompeo will give the committee what we were seeking if we join in a smear of the president’s political rival. Sound familiar?”

The contempt resolution is the latest — and likely futile — attempt by the Democrat-led House to pressure Trump’s administration into complying with requests for testimony and information on a wide range of issues. While congressional subpoenas are legally binding, officials who have rebuffed Congress have faced little consequence for defying them, while Trump has fired or demoted federal employees who have complied with requests individually.

Contempt itself is largely a symbolic gesture that has generally been used to embarrass officials who refuse congressional requests, and Democratic attempts to legally fight the administration’s refusals have been drawn out in lengthy court battles.

The State Department has also defied subpoenas in the committee’s investigation of Trump’s firing of

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