House Majority Whip James Clyburn

House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, speaking during a news conference about COVID-19 on Sept. 17, 2020, on Capitol Hill.

Trump administration political appointees tried to block or change more than a dozen government reports that detailed scientific findings about the spread of the coronavirus, a House panel investigating the alleged interference said Monday.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said his coronavirus subcommittee investigators have found evidence of a “political pressure campaign” to “bully” professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in what may have been an attempt to “cripple the nation’s coronavirus response in a misguided effort to achieve herd immunity.”

Herd immunity is shorthand for a theory – rejected by most public health experts – that society can be best protected by allowing younger people to get infected and develop natural immunity until vaccines are widely available.

Accusing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, of stonewalling his investigation, Clyburn issued subpoenas to compel them to turn over reams of documents and emails by Dec. 30.

In a statement, HHS responded that there was no political interference, adding: “While the administration is focused on vaccination shots, the subcommittee is focused on cheap shots to create headlines and mislead the American people.”

The committee’s topline findings were detailed in a 20-page letter to Azar and Redfield that centered on the actions of two political appointees earlier this year at HHS. investigators said the campaign:

• Sought to block or change more than a dozen articles, sometimes succeeding in getting changes to draft language and at other times delaying publication as internal arguments raged.

• Intensely challenged articles that detailed scientific findings on the spread of COVID-19 among children. This came during a time when President Donald Trump was adamantly urging a return to in-person schooling in the fall.

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