WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. health official Anthony Fauci will not testify next week to a congressional committee examining the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said on Friday, calling it “counterproductive” to have individuals involved in the response testify.

The White House issued an emailed statement after a spokesman for the House of Representatives committee holding the hearing said the panel had been informed by Trump administration officials that Fauci had been blocked from testifying.

“While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement to Reuters. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

Fauci’s testimony was being sought for a May 6 hearing by a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health programs, said spokesman Evan Hollander. The Washington Post first reported that Fauci would not testify.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been one of the leading medical experts helping to guide the U.S. response to the highly contagious virus that has swept across the United States.

Trump and the Democratic-controlled House have repeatedly clashed over lawmakers’ attempts to investigate administration actions.

In recent days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have urged wide-ranging investigations into Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed tens of thousands of Americans.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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