One was USAMRIID at Fort Detrick.
Washington DC (KM) Members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation are not happy with a US Department of Defense decision to withhold $104-million from two military installations in Maryland. They are the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, and the US Army Combat Capabilities Command Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
Senator Chris Van Hollen says he and Senator Ben Cardin, and Representatives David Trone, Jaime Raskin, Dutch Ruppersberger and Anthony Brown have written a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, asking for answers. “This was unacceptable. That we needed to have these funds flow; and we needed to get to the bottom of what was happening,” says Van Hollen.
He says he hasn’t heard back from the Secretary. “We expect to do so within a few weeks at the latest. But we are continuing to push on this matter both through our committees but also through outreach to other folks in the Defense Department as well as Fort Detrick,” says Van Hollen.
With parts of the world dealing with the cornavirus, Senator Van Hollen says this is not the time to withhold funding for facilities such as USAMRIID. “Those are exactly the kind of things the researchers at Fort Detrick work on,” he says. “We need to get those funds unfrozen and flowing.”
Fort Detrick has said USAMRIID is not involved in responding to the cornavirus, but is ready to step in.
Senator Van Hollen says the Secretary of Defense has instituted something called “night courts,” which he calls a behind-the-door reviews of various defense programs. “We have expressed not just our frustration about that approach but made it clear that it’s unacceptable that states and their representatives are kept in the dark while this kind of financial withholding is going on,” he says.
“If you eliminate that capacity or reduce that capacity, you’re going to pay a very heavy price when you have a crisis and you need the surge capacity,” says Senator Van Hollen. “We are focused on trying to make sure these funds flow.”
Senator Van Hollen also says he voted to convict President Trump of the two articles of impeachment approved the House of Representatives. He says the House presented very good arguments regarding the charges of abuse of power by the President.. “And they established very clearly that the President of the United States used the office of the Presidency to further a personal political goal. And he withheld taxpayer funded, military assistance to Ukraine, which is also in a fight with our adversary, Russia,” he says.
The Senate voted this week to acquit President Trump of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Prior to its vote to acquit, the Senate’s leadership decided not to call any witnesses or obtain any new documents during the trial. Senator Van Hollen said this was not a fair trial. “When you have a trial, you get to call witnesses and get relevant documents. That didn’t happen here. That’s the first time in American history there was a Senate impeachment trial with no new documents and witnesses. That is a travesty in and of itself,” he says.
Van Hollen hopes the Senate does better the next time it holds an impeachment trial. “You can’t have a result that’s acceptable to everyone in the country if you don’t have a fair process. I hope the Senate can do better the next time, at least in terms of the process,” he says.
Trump is the third President to face impeachment. The others were Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1999. Like Trump, both were acquitted.
By Kevin McManus