Ex-Trump aide subpoenaed over alleged interference in Covid response

A US House panel probing former President Donald Trump’s administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has issued a subpoena to Peter Navarro, a former aide, asking him to produce documents and appear for a deposition.

Navarro served as director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and an assistant to Trump, reports Xinhua news agency.

James Clyburn, who chairs the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, explained the reason for the subpoena in a memo on Thursday, saying that Navarro and other former administration officials “appear to have prioritised politics over the pandemic response — focusing their attention on the 2020 presidential election and promoting former President Trump’s Big Lie that the election results were fraudulent”.

The South Carolina Democratic Congressman alleged that “rather than implement a coordinated national strategy to alleviate critical supply shortages, Navarro and other Trump administration officials pushed responsibility to the states and pursued a haphazard and ineffective approach to procurement-contributing to severe shortages of critically needed supplies and putting American lives at risk”.

“White House officials, including Navarro, also appear to have sidelined career procurement officials and exercised inappropriate influence over contract awards, leading to the award of contracts without adequate diligence or competition,” Clyburn said.

The subpoena compels Navarro to turn over documents and information related to his involvement in the former administration’s pandemic response by December 8, and sit for a deposition on December 15.

Clyburn said Navarro has refused to voluntarily cooperate with the subcommittee’s investigation ever since the panel first contacted him on September 14.

He said the panel has tried to contact Navarro “more than a dozen times, including through phone calls, voicemail messages, emails, and text messages”, only to be knowingly ignored by him time and again.

“Given (Navarro’s) central role in the pandemic response, the importance of the Select Subcommittee’s investigation, and his continued refusal to cooperate voluntarily, this subpoena is necessary,” Clyburn said.

In a statement cited by the Forbes magazine, Navarro called the investigation a “witch hunt” and said he “will be delivering a case of my new book ‘In Trump Time’ to the committee”.

In the book, Navarro delivered a scathing attack on Anthony Fauci, once a member of the Trump administration’s pandemic response team and now President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, claiming that the top US infectious-disease expert has the “blood of millions of people worldwide on his hands” due to numerous alleged mis-steps and “lies of omission” that occurred throughout the pandemic.