House coronavirus audit calls Trump admin’s response an ‘abject failure’

President Donald Trump reacts after hanging up a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, second from left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and others applaud in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP photo via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Judging America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in economic, moral and humanitarian standards, a congressional subcommittee released a six-month assessment Friday of waste, fraud and abuse, calling the Trump administration’s response to date “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.”

“The mission of this select committee is to investigate the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of our nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis, so that improvements can be made to protect American lives and livelihoods,” Congressman Jim Clyburn said during a press call this morning. “Today’s report exhaustively documents what has long been clear: The Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been a tragic failure.”

Democrats tapped Clyburn, their minority whip in the House, to chair the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis upon establishing the body in late April. At the time, the outbreak had sickened just over 1 million people in the U.S. and killed at least 57,000.

Things have gotten much worse since then, the nearly 90,000 new infections that the U.S. clocked on Thursday marks the new record for daily new Covid-19 cases. More than 9 million in the country have fallen ill with Covid-19, and it has claimed nearly 230,000 lives.

“The virus is a global scourge, but it has been an American fiasco, killing more people in the United States than in any other country,” the 71-page report slams in the executive summary.

While outlining numerous shortcomings of Trump’s national response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the subcommittee also dissects the many conflicts of interest within Trump’s vaccine research team, Operation Warp Speed, where several officials at the helm have financial interests in companies being funded by the federal government.

As for Main Street lending programs, the subcommittee said federal stimulus proved ineffective for smaller communities due to restrictive terms that limited the program’s usefulness. Only 252 loans had been issued from that program, or just 0.4% of the fund’s $600 billion fisc.

Lawmakers also investigated why the administration announced in July that it would loan the Eastman Kodak Company $765 million loan “to produce pharmaceutical ingredients — even though the company lacked any pharmaceutical experience.”

Just one day after the investigation was announced, the White House put the deal on hold, but Friday’s report notes that Kodak executives had already “reaped huge stock windfalls before the deal was announced.”

Kodak undertook its own investigation, reporting last month that it had identified “‘several flaws in the process’ and stating that activities of at least one board member raised ‘significant concerns from a corporate governance perspective.’”

While Friday’s report gives key findings from the last six months, the committee has previously issued seven staff reports following numerous investigations into the distribution of Payment Protection Program funds, along with other Covid-19 stimulus monies.

Clyburn said those investigations are responsible for the recovery of more than $4 billion in potential fraud from more than 22,500 loans from small business relief programs, along with the suspension of an additional $1 billion in wasteful government contracts.

“More than $100 million in taxpayer finances have been returned to the United States Treasury and the Trump administration has reversed several troubling decisions impacting the nation’s pandemic response,” Clyburn said.

America’s handling of voting in the global pandemic is covered in the report as well, with an index of every state’s laws on mail-in ballots. Texas, the report notes, is one of six states that has refused to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic. The report also offers recommendations to expand poll accessibility.

“States and cities have the tools to provide adequate voting by mail and dropbox, extended early voting, and safe polling places recommended by the CDC,” the report states. “States cannot simply defer to local election officials but must move swiftly and proactively to address these problems.”

On Friday’s call announcing the report’s release, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she would be recommending the Coronavirus Response subcommittee be renewed in the 117th Congress.

“I know … there’s much more work to be done,” Pelosi said. “Because what you are doing is insisting on the truth and that is really very important, as you’ve said, it’s a matter of life and death in terms of the consequences.”