Fauci Faces Withering Questioning in Congress
New documents, released last week by Republican members of the House Oversight Committee, show Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIAID, and former NIH director Dr. Francis Collins collaborating in early 2020 to stamp out discussion of the ‘lab-leak’ theory, and to hide their agencies’ funding of gain-of-function experiments in Wuhan.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the Republican congressmen from the Oversight Committee who released the information, discovered it after winning a months-long FOIA battle with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the parent organization of NIH and NIAID. Close to a thousand emails were ultimately turned over to the Oversight Committee.
In light of the new disclosures, the congressmen addressed a letter to HHS demanding a hearing with Dr. Fauci to uncover what they believe is knowingly concealed truths concerning the origins of the pandemic. Dr. Collins stepped down from his post weeks earlier and is thus shielded from congressional inquiry.
“We write to request a transcribed interview of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID,” the congressmen wrote. “Excerpts of emails we are making public today reveal that Dr. Fauci was warned of two things: (1) the potential that Covid-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute Virology (WIV) and (2) the possibility that the virus was intentionally genetically manipulated.
“It is imperative we investigate if this information was conveyed to the rest of the government and whether this information would have changed the U.S. response to the pandemic,” the letter went on.
The trove of emails to which the letter refers follows an earlier batch received in June 21 which broke the news that Dr. Fauci was aware early on that top scientists were concerned that the virus was possibly engineered in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The earlier emails, which were heavily redacted before being turned over by HHS, revealed that Fauci was worried that U.S. funding he had directed to the Wuhan lab might have been used for controversial gain-of-function experiments that could possibly be linked to the escape of the SARS2 virus.
Gain-of-function refers to a high-risk laboratory enterprise in which a virus is made much more lethal and infectious. Due to the dangerous nature of these experiments, they were placed under moratorium during the Obama and Trump Administrations. The newly released emails show how the NIH and NIAID agencies circumvented the moratorium by exporting the research to the Wuhan lab in China where security and biosafety standards are far less stringent.
Fauci had denied under oath that NIAID knowingly funded the experiments but the emails—both the earlier ones and particularly those released last week—contradict his assertions.
Report Hidden in Secret Drive Made Public
Revelations in the new emails are bolstered by an August 13, 2021 report at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was hidden in a top-secret shared drive and made public by Project Veritas, reports The Intercept. DARPA is an agency under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in charge of facilitating technology research with military applications.
The report to the Inspector General of the DOD was written by former DARPA researcher, Major Joseph Murphy. The document states that EcoHealth Alliance approached DARPA in March 2018, seeking funding to conduct gain-of-function research of bat-borne corona viruses. The proposal, named Project Defuse, was rejected by DARPA over safety concerns, and because the research it proposed would violate the gain-of-function moratorium.
That should have ended the matter.
According to the documents, however, EcoHealth ultimately carried out the experiments in Wuhan, China and at several sites across the United States, with funding provided by NIH and NIAID. The congressmen’s letter to HHS, quoting from Major Murphy’s report, stresses that Dr. Fauci was well aware of the financial arrangements between NIAID, the NIH, EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan lab.
Fauci also knew that EcoHealth’s director Peter Daszak and NIAID worked together to craft a grant policy which would ‘sidestep the gain-of-function moratorium at the time,’ the letter states.
“This allowed EcoHealth to complete dangerous experiments on novel bat corona viruses –and with little oversight—that would have otherwise been blocked by the moratorium,” the letter continues. It goes on to clarify that in January 2020, Fauci was also aware that EcoHealth was delinquent in submitting an annual progress report to NIAID, “presumably to hide a gain-of-function experiment conducted on infectious and potentially lethal bat coronaviruses.”
DARPA Rejection Letter Identifies EcoHealth Research as Gain-of-Function
Dr. Fauci has repeatedly maintained, under oath, that NIH and NIAID have not been involved in gain-of-function research with the EcoHealth Alliance program. But according to the documents obtained by Project Veritas which outline why EcoHealth Alliance’s proposal was rejected, DARPA certainly classified the research as gain-of-function.
“The proposal does not mention or assess potential risks of Gain-of-Function (GoF) research,” a direct quote from the DARPA rejection letter states.
“Major Murphy’s report goes on to detail great concern over the Covid-19 gain-of-function program, the concealment of documents, the suppression of potential curatives like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, and the mRNA vaccines,” writes Project Veritas.
Immediately after the Murphy report came to light, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote to the Department of Defense demanding answers on whether an investigation was launched into the Murphy allegations and what findings it produced. “If no investigative steps were taken into this matter, please explain why not,” Sen. Johnson pressed.
“Did Dr. Fauci use his position to chill debate about the possibility that Covid -19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? It certainly appears so,” a Newsweek op-ed states. “More than a year after he received the first warnings that the virus may have come from the lab, and despite mounting evidence in a Wall Street Journal report indicating three Wuhan lab workers got sick in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, Fauci publicly insisted the virus was not man-made.”
Emails Disclose Secret Conference with Scientists
Reps. Comer’s and Jordan’s Jan 11 letter sets out a timeline of events gleaned from the new emails that point to the beginnings of a cover-up about the virus’ suspected origins.
“On February 1, 2020, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Collins, and at least eleven other scientists convened a conference call to discuss Covid-19,” the letter says. “It was on this conference call that Drs. Fauci and Collins were first warned that Covid-19 may have leaked from the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] and, further, may have been intentionally genetically manipulated.”
The day before the call, infectious disease expert Kristian Andersen had warned Fauci that the virus may have been “engineered in a lab,” noting that he and several other high-profile scientists found the virus had unique features that the scientists felt could not have mutated or evolved naturally.
The scientists agreed to have a conference call the next day. “It was a very productive back-and-forth conversation where some on the call felt it could possibly be an engineered virus,” Fauci told Alison Young, writing for USA Today, in June 2021.
On February 2, Jeremy Farrar, a British infectious disease expert, sent around notes, including to Fauci and Collins, summarizing what some of the scientists had said on the teleconference. “Farzan, who studied the spike protein on the 2003 SARS virus, is bothered by the furin site and has a hard time explaining that as an event outside the lab (there are possible ways in nature, but highly unlikely),” Farrar’s note reads.
“So I think it becomes a question of how you put all this together, whether you believe in a series of coincidences…what you know about the lab in Wuhan, how much [of this process] could be in nature? Was it accidental release?” Farrar concluded he believes there was a “60-70” probability that the pandemic began with an accidental lab leak.
Leading scientific voices, however, have called the discovery of a “furin cleavage site” on the virus, one of the “unusual features” identified by Anderson and Farzan, a smoking gun pointing to human manipulation. Both of these theories, an accidental leak and a deliberate engineering, would soon be quashed and their proponents labeled conspiracy theorists.
Scientists Make Abrupt U Turn
Emails released to the Oversight Committee show that only three days after the conference call, four participants in the call, including Jeremy Farrar, reversed their stance and published a paper in Nature Medicine, with Andersen the lead author, dismissing a lab leak as impossible. They sent the paper to Collins and Fauci for editing and approval.
“What new evidence, if any, came to light about Covid-19 between February 1, 2020 and February 4, 2020 to alter the scientists’ belief it originated in a lab?” Congressmen Jordan and Comer want to know in their letter to HHS. “Did Drs. Fauci or Collins edit the Nature Medicine paper entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2 [that shed doubt on the lab-leak notion]”?
When media coverage of a potential lab leak at WIV continued to mount after the revelations, a worried Collins emailed Fauci in mid-April, “Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy.”
Collins’ anxiety was likely alleviated when Farrar and Anderson, along with 26 other scientists, signed an open letter published in the Lancet, denouncing the theory that Covid did not arise naturally as “conspiracy.” The Lancet letter became the go-to address for scientific “evidence” that the virus emerged “naturally.”
Ironically, it later emerged through a Freedom of Information group that the individual orchestrating the scientists’ letter was none other than Peter Daszak, director of EcoHealth. He served as one of the principal coordinators of the gain-of-function research at various facilities, among them the Wuhan institute. Daszak had over the years distributed tens of millions of dollars in NIH grants to these institutions.
Indicative of the toxic atmosphere that soon surrounded the lab-leak theory, Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the CDC, told Vanity Fair magazine he received death threats from fellow scientists after telling them he thought the virus likely escaped from a lab.
“I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis. I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science,” he said.
Congressmen Condemn Lack of Transparency
Legislators on the Oversight Committee were able to view the full emails between the scientists, Fauci and Collins only “in camera,” which means they could view the material and take notes but couldn’t take copies with them. A great portion of the released emails are still heavily redacted.
“Rather than be transparent with the Committee, HHS and NIH continue to hide, obfuscate, and shield the truth,” the Republican lawmakers’ letter to HHS continued. “By continuing to refuse to cooperate with our request, your agencies are choosing to hide information that will help inform the origins of the ongoing pandemic, prevent future pandemics… and restore confidence in our public health experts. HHS and NIH’s continued obstruction is likely to cause irreparable harm to the credibility of these agencies.”
The congressmen went on to pose hard-hitting questions about whether Fauci or Collins warned anyone at the White House of the scientists’ apprehensions that Covid-19 originated in a lab, or was genetically manipulated. The letter also wanted the dates when Drs. Fauci or Collins became aware of the State Dept’s warnings about WIV’s lack of safety standards. If conveyed early enough to the White House, these warnings might have dramatically affected the government’s early response to the pandemic, the letter said.
“Unfortunately, thus far, HHS and its subordinate agency have hidden behind redactions to shield these emails from public scrutiny,” the letter said. “We call on you to immediately lift these redactions and produce the email communications to Congress. Further, considering the import of the above questions, we request Dr. Anthony Fauci be made immediately available to sit for a transcribed interview.”
The Drive to Outsmart Nature
The ethics of performing gain-of-function research have stirred fierce controversy among scientists for years. Those in favor claimed by staying one step ahead of nature, science could help prevent pandemics and accelerate vaccine development. But the experiments demonstrated a degree of enhanced transmissibility of viruses that was unprecedented and alarming, sparking intense opposition.
Critics argued that creating dangerous pathogens that don’t exist in nature ran the risk of unleashing them and causing a pandemic. What sense did it make, they reasoned, to hunt for exotic diseases in the wild, ship them back to laboratories and wire their genomes to prove how dangerous to human life they might become?
Pressure from critics and activists in the Obama administration brought about a temporary pause on funding gain-of-function research, especially when it involved potential pandemic pathogens. Yet five months before the moratorium was announced, NIH-affiliated Eco-Health under Peter Daszak secured a NIAID grant of roughly $3.7 million, which it allocated to various labs engaged in collecting bat samples and performing gain-of-function experiments, including China’s WIV.
Even after the moratorium was announced, these experiments continued.
The motive for wanting to crush speculation that the pandemic began with a lab leak is not difficult to understand. If ever it were discovered with finality that the SARS-Cov2 virus had escaped from research NIH and NIAID had funded, heads would roll. Public outrage would be unforgiving and would affect virologists everywhere. “It would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom,” one scientist said.
“If it turns out that the Covid pandemic was caused by a leak from a lab in Wuhan, China, it will rank among the greatest scientific scandals in history,” affirmed a New York Times op-ed. “[This] dangerous research… carried out in a poorly safeguarded facility, thuggishly covered up by a regime more interested in propaganda than human life, was catastrophic for the entire world.
“But this possible scandal, which is as yet unproved, obscures an actual scandal,” the writer said, emphasizing the “long refusal by too many media gatekeepers to take the lab-leak theory seriously.”
“Rewind the tape to February of last year,” the article urged, “when people such as Senator Tom Cotton began pointing to a disturbing fact: the odd coincidence of a pandemic originating in the same city where a Chinese lab was conducting high-end experiments on bat viruses.
“And the fact that the Chinese government lied and stonewalled its way through the crisis.”
The silence of the media when these issues cried out for investigation and exposure “is an enduring scandal,” the article said.
Follow The Science?
“Follow the science” – the oft-quoted slogan espoused by Dr. Fauci, the CDC’s Dr. Rachel Wallensky and other public health officials exhorting the public to heed Covid-19 mandates, has become the butt of jokes as pillars of supposed scientific truth regarding Covid-19 prove to be constantly shifting or collapsing.
Consider Dr. Fauci’s ominous predictions in November that “the unvaccinated are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.” His fear tactics in pushing vaccines and boosters may have succeeded with some but alienated and rang hollow to a great many others.
Filtering down to the grassroots is the realization that the Omicron strain is “escaping” the vaccines and booster shots. This has been confirmed by the findings in a landmark study conducted by the renowned Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
The hospital launched a study to test the efficacy of a fourth Covid shot, a spokesman told the Times of Israel, and results showed that the booster was not as effective as hoped against the Omicron strain.
“The vaccine, which was very effective against the previous strains, is less effective against the Omicron strain,” noted Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, a lead researcher in the experiment. “For Omicron it’s not good enough,” she said.
Sheba’s trial program, which began in December with 150 medical staff being given the booster, is much smaller than normal drug trials “which usually involve thousands of volunteers whose results are tracked for months,” the article said.
Prof. Regev-Yochay added that it is still “probably” a good idea to give a fourth shot to those at higher risk but suggested that the current campaign pushing universal boosters should be amended to target “only older groups.”
For many, the reason is obvious. Most people who become infected with omicron have experienced a relatively mild case. As reports of adverse effects of the vaccine increase, it is apparent that for younger people, the risk of falling seriously ill, dying or suffering disability from the vaccine may well be greater than the risk of becoming severely ill from Omicron.
In addition, the fact that the study lasted only a few weeks, unable to provide long-term or even short-term safety and efficacy data, is worrisome to people. Despite the lack of data, and warnings from leading scientists that fourth booster shots could weaken the immune system instead of strengthening it, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pushed ahead with expanding Israel’s fourth dose program. About 500,000 people have already received it, the Times of Israel said.
Israel is apparently pinning hopes that the extra booster may help keep the Omicron variant from overwhelming hospitals, the article noted. The wisdom of using early treatment protocols, such as monoclonal antibodies and other effective drugs, to lower the rates of hospitalization and death from Covid has tragically not made significant inroads in this country.
During last week’s congressional hearing, Senator Roger Marshall, R-KS, grilled Dr. Fauci about the core disclosures in the FOIA emails that pointed to a cover-up. He prefaced his questions with a scathing attack on the NIAID director’s credibility, saying the American people had completely lost confidence in him and he was hurting the public good by remaining in office.
Fauci countered by insisting he was faithfully carrying out his responsibilities of educating the public about Covid-19.
Marshall then went for the jugular. “Dr. Fauci, you have previously told this committee, under oath, that NIH and NAIAD have never funded gain-of-function research with the EcoHealth Alliance. However, a report to the Department of Defense Inspector General released yesterday states that EcoHealth Alliance under Dr. Peter Daszak approached DARPA in 2018 seeking funding to conduct gain-of-function research on bat-borne coronaviruses.
“The proposal, named Project Defuse, was rejected by DARPA because the project didn’t address the research’s potential to violate the gain-of-function moratorium. This same proposal rejected by DARPA for gain-of-function potential was not rejected by NIAID under your leadership,” Marshall went on.
“You funded Project Defuse and its research that took place at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Why did you tell the Committee that your agency has not funded gain-of- function research? Why did your agency award this grant despite it being rejected by DARPA, due to concerns about violating the moratorium that was in place?
Dr. Fauci’s response followed an established pattern of indignant denial even in the face of indisputable evidence. “Senator, your accusations are entirely incorrect. We did not award that grant and in fact we never even saw that grant!”
The documents “make it clear that assertions by Collins and Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research at WIV are untruthful,” said Richard Ebright, molecular biologist and professor at Rutgers University. Speaking to Newsweek, Ebright said that multiple sections of the grant proposals and particularly, the grant progress reports of 2014, make it undeniable that the grants funded gain-of-function research of concern in Wuhan.
Citing a number of passages in the progress reports, Ebright said these sections of the documents show that NIH grants supported the construction of mutant SARS-related corona viruses, the result of which was a lab-generated virus that could infect human cells in a more virulent way.
EcoHealth Alliance, in its proposal to the NIH, even acknowledged the risks involved would pose “the highest risk of exposure to SARS among staff,” who, once infected, could carry it out of the lab. The NIH gave them the grant money anyway – something Dr. Anthony Fauci was forced to admit when testifying before Congress in May 2021, while maintaining the funds were not intended for gain-of-function research.
EcoHealth Alliance then gave $599,000 of the money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Instead of the grant being halted under the moratorium, friends in high places succeeded in pushing it through.
In view of the overwhelming evidence, Fauci’s protests in Congress that he “never even saw that grant” are astounding. Perhaps “that grant” – Project Defuse—had been tweaked and even renamed to meet criteria for NIAID and NIH, providing a feeble pretext for Fauci to insist he had never seen it. But as Ebright demonstrated, the bulk of EcoHealth’s research proposal approved by Fauci clearly dealt with gain-of-function experimentation.