With the coronavirus pandemic now having led to more deaths than the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11th, 2001, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is calling for an independent commission along the lines of the one that was established after 9/11 to investigate the failures in planning and preparedness that left the nation so unprepared for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Schiff, already a pariah in right-wing circles for his leading role in the impeachment of Donald Trump, will likely face even more vitriol with his calls for an investigation into the federal government’s less than optimal response to the disease, particularly in the early phases of the appearance of the virus on American shores — a time when quick action may have been able to lessen the rapid spread of the disease.
As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Schiff has already instructed staffers to review the intelligence materials presented to the committee that warned of the looming pandemic to see what was known about dangers that the COVID-19 was predicted to pose.
Further investigation will have to wait until the crisis passes its peak and Congress officially authorizes the commission, which is likely to face opposition from Republican defenders of Donald Trump and his handling of the crisis.
“We will need to delay the work of the commission until the crisis has abated to ensure that it does not interfere with the agencies that are leading the response,” Schiff explained in an email to The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “But that should not prevent us from beginning to identify where we got it wrong and how we can be prepared for the next pandemic.”
Congressman Schiff’s call for the independent investigatory commission echoes the concerns that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed on CNN‘s State of the Union this past Sunday when she said of the president and his administration’s lagging response to the crisis:
“I don’t know what the scientists said to him, when did this president know about this, and what did he know? What did he know and when did he know it? That’s for an after-action review.”
Asked directly whether she was claiming that the administration’s foot-dragging approach to the pandemic had caused the death toll in this country to explode beyond what it could have been had the infection rate had been slowed or contained by quick testing and earlier quarantine orders, the Speaker responded:
“Yes, I am. I’m saying that….. Because we weren’t prepared, we now have 2,000 deaths and 100,000 cases.”
Since that Sunday interview, those numbers have more than doubled, with 238,823 cases and 5,768 deaths in the United States as of Thursday afternoon.
Besides the independent investigatory commission that Schiff is advocating, the Trump administration will also face oversight of how they plan on managing and spending the $2 trillion allocated by the economic stimulus package passed by Congress.
Pelosi announced today that she had appointed Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) to chair a “special bipartisan panel she said would be focused on rooting out waste, fraud and abuse,” according to The Washington Post.
“Where there’s money there’s also frequently mischief,” Speaker Pelosi said as she made the announcement of the new panel.
According to The Washington Post:
“Pelosi told reporters on a conference call that her new committee would be modeled after the World War II-era committee run by then-Sen. Harry Truman (D-Mo.), whose role in investigating the implementation of billions of dollars in defense contracts eventually led to his elevation to vice president.”
“She said that this new committee needed to serve as an everyday watchdog of the more than $2 trillion already allocated to fight the novel coronavirus and the virtual lockdown it has placed on the economy.”
The new special oversight committee will nominally have the power to subpoena officials from the Trump administration to provide testimony, but, as the House impeachment hearings last year demonstrated, the chances of the White House honoring those subpoenas seem slim.
Given that Trump has already been impeached once for obstruction of Congress and was let off the hook by a compliant and complicit GOP-controlled Senate, the president has little impetus to abide by the rules this time.
Let’s hope that with multiple committees closely monitoring his administration’s every public move, the chances for Trump to mismanage the trillions in relief funds for his own benefit will be minimal.
However, the chances that these committees will be sitting around with no questionable actions or transactions to investigate are as low as the number of ventilators left in the nation’s strategic reserves at this point.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.