WH Trade Adviser Denies Congressional Report Saying Trump Admin Overpaid for Ventilators by $500 Million: 'It's Not True'

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro denied a congressional report Thursday that said President Donald Trump's administration overpaid by hundreds of millions of dollars for ventilators purchased during the coronavirus pandemic.

"No," Navarro said when asked about the report during an interview on CNN's New Day. "It's not true."

The race to purchase and produce ventilators began early in 2020 as need for them to treat COVID-19 patients increased. State leaders anticipating surges in cases negotiated their own deals to purchase ventilators, but the federal government also purchased the machines so that it could distribute some to states in need from its national stockpile.

According to a congressional investigation conducted between mid-April and the end of July by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, who serves as the chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, the federal government paid $15,000 per ventilator purchase while other American purchasing contingents paid less than $10,000. The amount the White House paid for each unit was negotiated under a revised contract with ventilator producer Philips, a contract that former President Barack Obama initiated in 2014 to gather thousands of new ventilators by 2019. The federal government was to purchase those initial ventilators at a $3,280-per-unit price, according to the report.

A patient is connected to a ventilator and other medical devices in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 2, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to a recent congressional report, the federal government overpaid by about $500 million on ventilator purchases this year. Go Nakamura/Getty

Krishnamoorthi's report said that "inept contract management and incompetent negotiating" by Trump administration officials "denied the country the ventilators it needed." The new purchase agreement led to the federal government overspending by an estimated $500 million, the report said.

Philips said earlier this week that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) terminated its contract, which was expected to last through the end of this year. The company was due to provide an additional 30,700 ventilators to the national stockpile over the next few months, according to a company news release.

"The Subcommittee's investigation revealed that incompetent negotiations by top Trump Administration officials, like Peter Navarro, wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement after news of the terminated ventilator contract spread.

Navarro told New Day that he was not involved in the Philips contract, which he said was "executed totally by HHS."

Navarro went on to say that Philips made two kinds of ventilators, which he described as "the dirt bike versus the BMW." The "dirt bike version" was available at a lower cost but had "limited functionality," while the "BMW version" was the one a COVID-19 patient would want "if, God forbid, you were in the ICU in the later stages of the disease," Navarro said.

"With respect to Philips, HHS had the option of either buying the $15,000 one at $15,000 or getting multiple ones of the $3,000 one," he said.

Though Navarro said that the two versions of ventilators available from Philips were different, Krishnamoorthi's report said the kind of ventilator the White House purchased was "functionally identical" to the one negotiated under the Obama administration's previous contract.

"The Trump negotiators appeared gullible and conceded to Philips on all significant matters, including price," a news release about the report said. "The documents show that the Administration accepted Philips' first offer without even trying to negotiate a lower price."

Newsweek reached out to Krishnamoorthi's office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.