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U.S Congress. Wenstrup Announces Subpoena for Senior HHS Official Following Months of Egregious Stonewalling


WASHINGTON — After months of intentional stonewalling by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) announced a new subpoena to compel HHS Assistant Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin to appear for a deposition before the Select Subcommittee, the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Chairman Wenstrup was joined by Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), E&C Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), and E&C Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) in sending a letter to HHS today as part of their ongoing joint investigation.

Between February 2023 and October 2023, the Committees engaged with HHS in an attempt to obtain documents and communications and secure testimony pertinent to their investigations. During this period, the Committees offered numerous reasonable accommodations and acted in good faith to facilitate the timely and fulsome production of documents. Despite these efforts, HHS deliberately frustrated legitimate Congressional oversight by redacting documents unnecessarily, ignoring clear production deadlines, and slow walking easily, and sometimes even publicly attainable productions.

“Our accommodations have not been met with reciprocal actions from the Department, and its efforts to produce documents are deficient. For example, the Department has: (1) produced documents with more substantial redactions than those in documents that are publicly available, (2) redacted the names of non-governmental employees and foreign nationals without legitimate reasons, (3) missed numerous production deadlines, often without explanation, (4) withheld requested documents, again often without explanation, and, as the Congress has gone on, (5) made productions at a slower and slower cadence,” wrote the Chairs.

Further, HHS misled the Committees regarding their interview request for Assistant Secretary Egorin. Less than 24 hours before Dr. Egorin’s scheduled transcribed interview, HHS informed the Committees that the Assistant Secretary tested positive for COVID-19. The Committees worked diligently with HHS to reschedule Dr. Egorin’s interview, under the pretense that the Assistant Secretary was willing to cooperate. Again, less than 24 hours prior to Dr. Egorin’s scheduled interview, HHS delayed the Assistant Secretary’s testimony with the promise of a substantive, bipartisan meeting to discuss all HHS productions requested by the Committees.

In the resulting meeting, HHS failed to adequately prepare, made outrageous rationalizations regarding their stonewalling, and refused to answer numerous questions raised by both majority and minority staff. The refusal to cooperate with legitimate Congressional oversight and the subsequent obstruction of Assistant Secretary Egorin’s testimony warrants the resulting subpoena.

“The only conceivable explanation for why the Department would deliberately cripple its ability to respond to oversight requests is that its political leadership wants to obstruct Congress. The Department’s continued assertions that it is working in “good faith” with Congress are outrageous when compared to how it actually responds to oversight requests.  The Department’s course of conduct over several months in response to our oversight requests is not reasonable and lacks a legal basis. There is no evidence that the Department is willing to take steps to address the Committees’ concerns,” wrote the Chairs.

In today’s subpoena cover letter and appendix — in a final act of goodwill towards HHS — the Committees have scoped down their document and communication requests.

Read the Committees’ cover letter here and the Select Subcommittee’s subpoena here.

Read the Committees’ previous subpoena threat here.

November 2 2023 Washington DC

Source https://oversight.house.gov/release/wenstrup-announces-subpoena-for-senior-hhs-official-following-months-of-egregious-stonewalling/Midtown Tribune news

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November 2023

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