White House blocks trade adviser from testifying about Philips ventilator deal

The White House has blocked trade adviser Peter Navarro from testifying at a hearing before a House oversight committee Sept. 16 about a partially canceled contract with Philips for ventilators, Politico reported. 

Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, wrote to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., head of the oversight committee, Sept. 9 saying the White House wouldn’t make Mr. Navarro available, according to Politico

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

HHS said Aug. 31 that it partially terminated the contract with Philips for 42,900 ventilators because the Strategic National Stockpile was full. Philips will still deliver 12,300 of the devices. The agency also partially canceled ventilator contracts with Hamilton Medical and Vyaire Medical. 

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee found in July that HHS overpaid by as much as $500 million for ventilators to combat COVID-19. They found that HHS paid Philips $15,000 per ventilator, more than any other U.S. purchaser. The committee said HHS also failed to take Philips up on an offer to speed shipments of ventilators.

The oversight committee said Aug. 31 that it would investigate the negotiations with Philips after the $646 million contract was abruptly terminated. Philips told the Associated Press that it wasn’t given a formal reason for the cancellation.

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