When the White House balked at allowing White House Coronavirus Task Force members such as Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying in U.S. House committees, the official line was that the experts were simply too busy addressing the pandemic to answer lawmakers' questions about the pandemic. The explanation was badly flawed.
And as it turned out, it was also soon irrelevant. Yesterday morning, Donald Trump was asked why he wouldn't let Fauci answer questions under oath, and the president offered the real reason, which contradicted his own team's official rationale.
"Because 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 House has put on a committee, an oversight committee, of Maxine Waters and Maloney and the same people. And it's just a setup. But Dr. Fauci will be testifying in front of the Senate, and he looks forward to doing that."
In other words, Republican-led committees will be allowed to conduct oversight, but as far as the president is concerned, Democratic-led committees will not.
A CNN report noted, "Trump's remarks amounted to an admission that he was looking to prevent Democrats from conducting their oversight duties when it comes to his administration's coronavirus response."
Quite right. Our system of government is built on a system of pillars, one of which is that there will be checks and balances between branches. The president, however, believes checks and balances should be limited to those who already agree with him -- our Madisonian model notwithstanding.
All of this roughly coincides with Trump's decision to oust three inspectors general -- one of whom alerted the administration to hospitals facing dire shortages of vital medical supplies, another of whom was helping oversee the $2.2 trillion economic aid package approved as part of the federal pandemic response.
When that same aid package took shape in March, Trump said he wanted to be responsible for conducting oversight of himself.
A Washington Post analysis took note yesterday of the "growing list of power plays by President Trump to thwart congressional oversight and independent watchdogs from scrutinizing his administration's response to the novel coronavirus and the way trillions of dollars are being distributed by the government."
As a rule, when Trump acts as if he has something to hide, it's often because he has something to hide. And in this case, the president apparently doesn't want anyone who's not on his "team" looking too closely at the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. A cynic might wonder if Trump is afraid of what his potential detractors might find.