Following the release of the redacted emails of Dr. Anthony Fauci at the beginning of June — and with an eye toward comments the good doctor made the month prior before Congress when he insisted his agency had never funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab — five GOP Senators have written a letter to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asking for all “records related to the origins of COVID-19 and China‘s Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, ranking member on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, along with Sens. Josh Hawley, James Lankford, Rand Paul, and Rick Scott, sent a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and NIH Director Francis Collins on Monday. In the letter, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members wrote they wanted answers about NIH’s “handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The recent release of approximately 4,000 pages of NIH email communications and other documents from early 2020 has raised serious questions about NIH’s handling of COVID-19,” the GOP letter said. “Between June 1 and June 4, 2021, the news media and public interest groups released approximately 4,000 pages of NIH emails and other documents these organizations received through Freedom of Information Act requests. These documents, though heavily redacted, have shed new light on NIH’s awareness of the virus’ origins in the early stages of the COVID19 pandemic.”
Fauci had sparred with Sen. Paul at a Senate hearing in May when the senator asked the doctor if he still supported NIH funding being sent to the Wuhan lab that has come under increased scrutiny of late as the possible source of a coronavirus leak that sparked the pandemic. Fauci replied: “Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect — that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
However in their letter, the senators pointed to several email conversations between Fauci and colleagues during the early days of the pandemic that would suggest that Fauci not only knew the Wuhan lab was researching coronaviruses over the course of several years but was being funded by Fauci’s own agency (the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)). Fauci also seems to have had some familiarity with gain-of-function research conducted by scientists associated with the Wuhan lab.
The letter also pointed to a Jan. 27, 2020, message from Daszak to Morens with the subject line: “Wuhan novel coronavirus – NIAID’s role in bat-origin Covs” and the message, “Happy to have a phone call re: the Wuhan CoV, but just wanted to mention a few things for your information and hopefully to pass on to Tony Fauci for when he’s being interviewed re. the new CoV: NIAID has been funding coronavirus research for the past 5 years… Collaborators include Wuhan Institute of Virology (currently working on the nCoV) and Ralph Baric.”
The Republican letter highlighted the fact Fauci sent an email to NIH Principal Deputy Director Hugh Auchincloss on Feb. 1, 2020, with an attachment labeled “Baric, Shi et al – Nature medicine – SARS Gain of function.pdf” and the subject line, “IMPORTANT.” Fauci’s message had a tone of urgency, saying, “Hugh: It is essential that we speak this AM. Keep your cell phone on… Read this paper as well as the e-mail that I will forward to you now. You will have tasks today that must be done.”
Auchincloss replied to Fauci, saying, “The paper you sent me says the experiments were performed before the gain of function pause but have since been reviewed and approved by NIH. Not sure what that means since Emily is sure that no Coronavirus work has gone through the P3 framework … She will try to determine if we have any distant ties to this work abroad.”
Fauci replied: “OK. Stay tuned.”
After a pause in 2014, HHS announced the Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight Framework in 2017, which was ostensibly set up to review any grants that might involve gain-of-function research. But, the 2019 renewal of EcoHealth grants was not subjected to the P3CO review.
The letter also alludes to the fact that Fauci may have worked quietly behind the scenes to promote the narrative the virus was natural in origin rather than a result of a lab leak at the Wuhan lab.