Two incoming House Republican committee chairmen already have begun an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, asking dozens of federal public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, to provide information that includes the role of U.S. tax dollars in paying for related research in China.
Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, announced Wednesday the names of Fauci and 39 other individuals with whom they will request transcribed interviews after Republicans take a slim House majority.
“Discovering the origin of COVID-19 is vital to providing accountability and protecting Americans in the future,” Comer said in a public statement, adding:
Mounting evidence points to the virus originating from a leak at the Wuhan lab. EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S. National Institutes of Health grantee, passed taxpayer funds to the Wuhan lab to conduct gain of function research on bat coronaviruses—research that may have started the pandemic. Dr. Fauci was warned early on that the virus appeared man-made and pointed to a lab leak and instead of blowing the whistle may have attempted to cover it up.
?BREAKING?@RepJamesComer & @Jim_Jordan are pressing senior Biden admin officials, EcoHealth, & top scientists for information related to COVID origins.— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) December 14, 2022
For the first time ever, they list 40 officials who should expect to appear before @GOPoversight.https://t.co/edFyuFP3UM
Comer is set to become chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3, and Jordan will be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Although debate continues over the lab leak theory, researchers concluded earlier this year that there is a “high likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated as an infectious clone assembled in vitro.”
SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
In January, the new Republican majority in the House will have subpoena power, as House Democrats had for the past four years.
“The American people deserve the facts and the truth about the origins of COVID-19,” Jordan said in his public statement. “COVID-19 disrupted our lives and livelihoods for over two years: kids couldn’t go to school, small businesses and churches were closed, our economy tanked, and our freedoms were restricted. If we had known the truth about the virus’s origins, we could have combated the virus in a more meaningful way at the outset of the pandemic.”
Comer and Jordan sent letters of inquiry dated Dec. 13 to federal officials, including Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra; Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist who is acting science adviser to President Joe Biden; and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines.
They also sent letters to federal agencies and the EcoHealth Alliance, a taxpayer-funded nonprofit that helped pay for coronavirus research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The research at the Chinese lab is known for “gain of function” research, which is designed to replicate a virus to increase its virulence and transmissibility to humans. Despite the controversy, the U.S. government continues to fund EcoHealth Alliance.
The two incoming chairmen also reached out to researchers at Columbia University, Scripps Research, and Tulane University.
The letter to Fauci, which says it “requires your testimony,” asks the retiring public health official to:
1. Preserve all e-mail, electronic documents, and data (‘electronic records’) created since January 1, 2014, related to SARS-CoV-2, gain-of-function research, the Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight Framework, EcoHealth Alliance, Inc., the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or the origins of COVID-19 generally.
For the purposes of this request, ‘preserve’ means taking reasonable steps to prevent the partial or full destruction, alteration, testing, deletion, shredding, incineration, wiping, relocation, migration, theft, or mutation of electronic records as well as negligent or intentional handling in a manner that would make such records incomplete or inaccessible.
The letter goes on to ask Fauci, who has said he will retire by year’s end, to:
2. Exercise reasonable efforts to identify and notify former employees and contractors, including subcontractors and consultants who may have access to such electronic records in an effort to ensure these records are to be preserved; and, 3. If it is the routine practice of any employee or contractor to destroy or otherwise alter such documents or electronic records, either halt such practices or arrange for the preservation of complete and accurate duplicates or copies of such records, suitable for production if requested.
The letters vary in content, but each begins by stating: “Since April 2, 2020, Committee Republicans have been investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) role in obscuring the truth regarding the initial outbreak, and whether any U.S. taxpayer dollars funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) dangerous gain-of-function research.”
The letters note that House Republicans sent “numerous letters to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” adding: “To date, these requests have either been ignored or the responses have been insufficient.”
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