White House blocks Navarro from testifying to House panel about ventilator deal

The White House has blocked trade adviser Peter Navarro from testifying at a House oversight hearing Wednesday about a partially canceled Defense Production Act contract to manufacture ventilators.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who heads the Oversight Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, issued a staff report in late July that argued the administration vastly overpaid Philips Respironics, agreeing to a $646.7 million deal without even trying to negotiate a lower price.

“Despite the astonishing scale of this waste, the loss of more than 190,000 lives and his willingness to appear on the cable news shows of his choice—Mr. Navarro refuses to appear before Congress to answer for his actions,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.

Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, wrote to Krishnamoorthi on Sept. 9 that the White House would not make Navarro available.

“In accordance with long-standing Executive Branch precedent that presidential advisers generally do not testify in Congress, we respectfully decline the invitation,” Purpura wrote.

Background: Philips announced Aug. 31 that HHS partially terminated the April 2020 contract to deliver 43,000 ventilators, which was struck amid fears there were not enough of the breathing machines to help sick Covid-19 patients. The company stated 12,300 of the devices would be provided to the Strategic National Stockpile, but the remaining 30,700 would not be sent.

HHS also took similar steps to partially cancel ventilator contracts with Hamilton Medical and Vyaire Medical.

What’s next: Krishnamoorthi is asking HHS Secretary Alex Azar for documents and information showing details of any termination settlements the department reached with the manufacturers.

“American taxpayers need to know that the termination of wasteful contracts with Philips, Hamilton, and Vyaire will not be undercut by generous termination settlements that involve payoffs to these companies,” he wrote in a letter to Azar.


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