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Lawmakers investigating the COVID pandemic have again requested phone call records between teacher’s union boss Randi Weingarten and outgoing CDC Director Rochelle Walensky over concerns of “political interference.”
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) sent a letter to Walensky on Wednesday, just two days before her scheduled departure from the CDC, requesting her phone records and texts with Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“During an April hearing with AFT president Weingarten, the Select Subcommittee learned — for the first time — that Ms. Weingarten had a direct telephone line to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Preserving all phone calls and text messages between the two officials will ensure accountability for any political interference,” the subcommittee said in a press release.
Wenstrup’s letter also accused the Department of Health and Human Services of failing to produce records in a timely manner, and only producing select documents that could be acquired through a freedom of information request. The CDC is a “major operating component” of HHS.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing its pattern of obstructing Congress by apparently only producing documents already made publicly available via the FOIA. As a reminder, FOIA does not apply to Congress,” Wenstrup said in the letter to Walensky.
Text messages previously obtained by the Fairfax Parent’s Association appear to show a close relationship between Weingarten and Walensky and seem to show Weingarten impacting CDC policy on school closure policy.
Weingarten texted Walensky in February 2021 saying that she had heard a “leak” from The New York Times about what was in the CDC’s upcoming guidance for school re-opening, and expressed concern that it was “at odds with [their] discussion.”
“They are running with a full speed ahead angle” for reopening schools, Weingarten wrote. She said the Times sent her a copy of the internal draft guidance that said, “At any level of community transmission, all schools can provide in-person instruction.”
“Hmmm. Argh,” Walensky wrote to Weingarten.
Following the texts from Weingarten, the CDC released guidance that was different. It said, “All schools have options to provide in-person instruction.” This guideline allowed school districts to stay closed while still saying they were following CDC guidelines. “Middle and high schools in virtual only instruction unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies and have few cases,” the guidance added.
Wenstrup requested call logs and texts between Walensky and Weingarten on the CDC’s director’s personal and professional phones by July 12.