Trump rails against ‘witch hunts’ after Pelosi announces committee to oversee coronavirus response

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump warned against “witch hunts” during the coronavirus pandemic after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she will create a bipartisan House Select Committee to track the federal response to the outbreak.  

The committee, which will be chaired by Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., will have the power to issue subpoenas. The panel will focus on accountability, transparency, and oversight of the federal coronavirus response, hoping to also include supervision to the $2 trillion stimulus package.

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Trump did not name Pelosi or the new committee specifically during a White House press briefing on Thursday, but the rhetoric echoed past complaints about other accountability measures, including former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the House impeachment proceedings, which he demeaned as “scams,” “witch hunts” and “hoaxes.”

“This is not the time for politics,” Trump said. “Endless partisan investigations – here we go again – have already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years. You see what happens. It’s witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt, and in the end the people doing the witch hunt have been losing, and they’ve been losing by a lot.”

“It’s not any time for witch hunts, it’s time to get this enemy defeated,” he continued. “Conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic is a really big waste of vital resources, time, attention, and we want to fight for American lives, not waste time and build up my poll numbers. Because that’s all their doing because everyone knows it’s ridiculous.”

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During a phone call with reporters Thursday, Pelosi said she hopes the committee will be bipartisan and said of the White House: “We hope there would be cooperation. This is not an investigation of the administration. Things are just so new and the rest, and we want to make sure there aren’t exploiters out there… where there’s money, there is also frequently mischief.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R., Calif., said he opposed the creation of a new committee, saying, “Inside the bills that we passed, we did put in oversight and this seems really redundant.”

The $2 trillion package Trump signed, the largest economic rescue bill in U.S. history, provides cash payments to Americans, loans to businesses and financial relief for industries. The goal is to inject cash into an economy ravaged by shutdowns brought about by the spread of coronavirus. 

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Just after slamming partisanship on Thursday, Trump sent Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,  a letter, blaming his support of impeachment in part for New York’s lack of readiness regarding the spread of the coronavirus. 

“If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy,” Trump wrote in a reply to a letter Schumer had sent him earlier in the day.

Contributing: Michael Collins, Christal Hayes

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