She’s turned to Michael Bromwich, senior counsel at the white shoe Steptoe law firm, for help.
“It is undeniable that the pandemic resulted in tragic and continuing consequences for children,” Bromwich wrote on the union’s behalf Wednesday to subcommittee chair Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and ranking member Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
“We make no progress towards addressing those very real problems by engaging in the type of scapegoating built on false allegations that appear to be the basis for this Subcommittee’s ‘investigation,’” Bromwich wrote in his letter to lawmakers, which was obtained by POLITICO.
Bromwich is widely known in Washington for his work representing former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe during the Trump-Russia investigation and Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who alleged she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A former Justice Department inspector general, Bromwich has garnered a reputation as a pugnacious defender. His message to congressional Republicans on Wednesday suggests he will deploy a similar strategy.
Earlier this month, Wenstrup asked Weingarten to testify at an April 26 hearing on the consequences of Covid-19’s school closures.
That request followed a March 28 letter from Wenstrup to Weingarten, which informed the teachers’ union chief that the select committee was investigating “potential political interference” with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on reopening schools issued in February 2021.
Wenstrup’s March 28 letter alleged the union was granted “uncommon” access to edit the guidance before its release, citing media reports at the time, which it said ultimately resulted in the CDC advising that schools should remain closed in much of the country.
Bromwich countered that the union shared its views on the planned guidance in late January 2021 during a conference call between Weingarten, senior union staff, CDC officials and President Joe Biden’s office.
AFT officials then followed up in February 2021 to suggest language related to accommodations for high-risk educators and staff, and also proposed that the CDC include language that said its guidance may need to be updated in light of new virus variants.
In addition, the union also proposed a “trigger” threshold that would determine when schools should be closed based on positive test cases. But the CDC rejected that suggestion, according to Bromwich.
“The claim that the AFT’s agenda was ‘keeping schools closed,’ and that it shifted CDC’s guidance to match that agenda, is utterly false,” Bromwich wrote to lawmakers on Wednesday.
“In fact, the AFT’s role was extremely limited,” he wrote. “It proposed changes that amounted to a few sentences in a 38-page document. The need to clarify these points was obvious and should have been uncontroversial.”
Wenstrup has asked Weingarten to supply documents, communications and a list of meetings between the AFT and the CDC, department of Health and Human Services and the Executive Office of the President regarding the guidance, among other items.
Wenstrup also issued similar requests to more than a dozen other organizations — including the National Education Association, AASA, The School Superintendents Association; the National Association of Secondary School Principals the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National School Boards Association.
Weingarten “welcomes the opportunity to testify and cooperate with the committee’s work,” an AFT spokesperson said on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Wenstrup did not immediately respond to a request for comment.