March 20, 2020
The Trump administration’s actions to manage the coronavirus (COVID-19) have been seriously hampered by the White House’s decision to treat top-level meetings about the virus as classified. Staff of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) without security clearances were blocked from coronavirus meetings — often keeping “very critical people” from attending these meetings, according to several Trump administration officials.
CREW has requested all HHS and CDC records of communication regarding security clearances for CDC personnel attending meetings to discuss coronavirus since the beginning of 2020.
Restricting access to these meetings only adds to the Trump administration’s history of politicized decisions about classification. For example, White House officials directed lawyers to store the rough transcript of Trump’s July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on a secure server, with no clear national security reason for classification.
These records will contribute to greater public understanding of coronavirus and the harm done by keeping key health officials from attending important meetings on nationwide solutions, ultimately delaying the U.S. response to the pandemic. By blocking crucial officials from participating in these discussions and decisions on COVID-19 and attempting to limit the flow of information about the pandemic, the president and his administration are failing to protect the health and safety of the American public.