House Republicans on Monday began their promised scrutiny of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, requesting testimony from Anthony Fauci and current Biden administration officials, along with classified briefings and documents from US intelligence agencies.
The new Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic essentially seeks to bring more emphasis to theories that the spread of Covid-19 originated out of laboratory experiments in Wuhan, China, possibly backed by US money, rather than at a Wuhan market.
Representative Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, the chairman of the panel, said it intends to end what he characterized as stonewalling by government scientists and government-funded researchers about what they knew about US dollars that were allegedly funneled to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“This investigation must begin with where and how this virus came about so that we can attempt to predict, prepare or prevent it from happening again,” Wenstrup said in a statement.
Scientists have largely debunked the lab leak scenario. Two peer-reviewed studies in the journal Science published last year have detailed evidence that a Chinese market is where the coronavirus crossed into the human population from wild animals.
Representative James Comer of Kentucky, chair of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, which oversees the new subcommittee, said in the statement that “evidence continues to mount pointing to the virus leaking from an unsecure lab in Wuhan.” He added that US taxpayer dollars made their way to that lab to conduct risky research on bat coronaviruses “which could have started the pandemic.”
Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was told in a letter Monday from Comer, Wenstrup and other Republicans that the subcommittee’s staff would “contact you to schedule a transcribed interview, reserving the right to conduct follow-up interviews if necessary to further our investigation.”
In a separate statement, the panel said Fauci, who retired at the end of last year, was aware of US money helping the Wuhan lab conduct “risky gain-of-function research on novel bat coronaviruses,” and that he might have “have acted to conceal the information by intentionally downplaying the lab leak theory.”
Fauci, in a statement on Monday night, said, “I have always kept a completely open mind as to the potential origins of Covid. I will certainly testify before any congressional committee if asked.”
The Republicans separately dashed off letters Monday demanding testimony, documents and calendars from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Acting Science Advisor to the president Francis Collins.
In a letter to Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence, the Republicans requested classified briefings from the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy’s technical analysis division and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
They also ask for “all documents and communications regarding intelligence gathered by the following agencies regarding a mysterious pneumonia or illness in China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, EcoHealth Alliance, Inc., or Covid-19.”