Trump swayed by ‘dangerous ideas’ about coronavirus, Birx tells House panel – The Washington Post

Deborah Birx, who was tapped to coordinate the Trump administration’s coronavirus response in February 2020 but quickly lost favor with the president, on Thursday painted a picture of wide-ranging dysfunction that she said misled the public and state officials, hampered coronavirus testing and contributed to unnecessary deaths from the virus.

“People were communicating with the president dangerous ideas … on a daily basis,” such as encouraging former president Donald Trump to advocate for unproven treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, or providing him with misleading data about the virus, Birx told the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

Birx also criticized Scott Atlas, a senior fellow in health-care policy at Stanford University who joined the administration in July 2020 and won Trump’s favor by saying that many infections were inevitable and encouraging a less robust government response. Atlas’s private advice and public comments broke from the recommendations made by Birx and fellow pandemic experts such as Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert.

“Dr. Atlas took that opportunity to make the point that it didn’t matter what you did, each of these surges would be identical. It didn’t matter if you tested. In fact, testing young people … and asking them to isolate while they were infectious was an infringement of their rights, and it was equivalent to a lockdown,” Birx testified. “These kinds of thoughts, particularly in any infectious disease, are dangerous.”

A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Birx’s testimony and new allegations. “She was a very negative voice who didn’t have the right answers,” Trump said in a statement last year about Birx’s prior criticism of the response.

“Here we are today, having yet another hearing with a witness to discuss things that happened more than two years ago,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the panel’s top Republican, asking why Fauci had not testified before the panel for more than a year, and why former Biden White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients and current coordinator Ashish Jha had not been summoned to answer questions about the current administration’s response.

The documents included an email sent from Atlas to a Trump health official in March 2020 in which Atlas asserted that the coronavirus outbreak was likely to “cause about 10,000 deaths” and argued that the federal government had overreacted. Atlas did not respond to The Post’s questions about the email.

Birx was the first former Trump official to publicly testify in front of the House panel about the prior administration’s response, and Democrats had originally envisioned their two-year-plus coronavirus probe as an opportunity to spotlight Trump’s pandemic mistakes heading into this year’s elections.

Birx sat alone at the hearing table, accompanied by her memoir detailing her time as Trump’s coronavirus coordinator. The book had sold 5,938 copies as of June 11, an analyst for NPD BookScan told The Post last week.

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