Sen. Rand Paul requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland criminally investigate Dr. Anthony Fauci over Senate testimony in which President Joe Biden's chief infectious disease expert said that the National Institutes of Health never funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which the Kentucky Republican says is a lie.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, insists that the NIH grants did not fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab and has repeatedly defended U.S. funding going to bat coronavirus research in China. But he also admitted that he doesn’t actually know what the secretive Chinese lab has been doing.
At issue in Paul's criminal referral is Fauci's testimony before Congress on May 11, when he denied under oath that the NIH funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab. Paul pointed to NIH grants going to the EcoHealth Alliance, which then provided funding to the Wuhan lab that a Trump State Department fact sheet contended carried out secretive gain-of-function experiments and worked with China’s military. At the time, Fauci told Paul: “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
After another back-and-forth with Fauci on Tuesday, during which the doctor repeatedly said the NIH funding approved for the Wuhan lab was not for gain-of-function research, Paul announced on Fox News that he would be sending a letter to the Justice Department over what he saw as false testimony by Fauci.
The Washington Examiner obtained the criminal referral Paul sent to Garland on Wednesday.
“I write to urge the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation into testimony made to the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on May 11, 2021,” Paul wrote to Garland.
NIH’s RePORTER website said the agency provided $15.2 million to Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance over the years, with $3.74 million toward understanding bat coronavirus emergence. Daszak maintained a long working relationship with Wuhan lab “bat lady” Shi Zhengli, sending her lab at least $600,000 in NIH funding. Daszak was also part of the World Health Organization-China team that dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as “extremely unlikely” earlier this year.
Paul told Garland that a 2017 paper on Shi’s experiments at the Wuhan lab, which cited an NIAID award, included research “in which the spike genes from two uncharacterized bat SARS-related coronavirus strains, Rs4231 and Rs7327, were combined with the genomic backbone of another SARS-related coronavirus to create novel chimeric SARS-related viruses” and that “these experiments combined genetic information from different SARS-related coronaviruses and combined them to create novel, artificial viruses able to infect human cells.”
The senator told the Justice Department that contrary to Fauci’s contention, “this research, conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and funded under NIAID Award R01AI110964, fits the definition of gain-of-function research.”
During the most recent hearing on Tuesday, Paul said that it was a crime to lie to Congress, a felony that could lead up to five years in prison, and stated that “gain-of-function research was done entirely at the Wuhan institute by Dr. Shi and was funded by the NIH.”
After a pause in 2014, the Health and Human Services Department announced the creation of the Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight Framework in 2017, ostensibly to review any grants that might involve gain-of-function research. But the 2019 renewal of the EcoHealth Alliance grants was not subjected to the review.
Paul pointed to comments by Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University. “This research matches, indeed, epitomizes the definition of ‘gain-of-function research of concern’ for which federal funding was ‘paused’ in 2014-2017," Ebright said in May.
“I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci said. “This paper that you are referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.”
Paul asked, “When you take an animal virus and you increase its transmissibility to humans, you’re saying that’s not gain-of-function?”
Fauci replied, “That is correct, and Sen. Paul, you do not know what you are talking about.”
The senator said, “They’re gain-of-function viruses because they were animal viruses that became more transmissible in humans, and you funded it. You won’t admit the truth.”
“If anyone is lying here, senator, it is you,” Fauci told Paul, adding, “This has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain-of-function definition. I have not lied before Congress.”
In a Friday interview, Neil Cavuto of Fox News read a passage from a Washington Post article, saying, “What everyone can now see clearly is that NIH was collaborating on risky research with a Chinese lab that has zero transparency and zero accountability during a crisis — and no one in a position of power addressed that risk. Fauci is arguing the system worked. It didn’t.”
“You know, it’s more complicated than that. … If you look at the research that was done, it was research that was highly recommended by peer review, our United States peer reviews. It got a very high score in the peer review system,” Fauci replied. “And the purpose of the research was very, very clear. It was to try to determine what was out there in the bat population that might be ultimately risky for us. It was done in the context of trying to find out what the precise environmental bat source was of SARS-CoV-2 so that we could prevent SARS-CoV-2.”
Fauci also told Fox News that “yes, we had somewhat of a confrontation of Sen. Paul because of the, I think, inflammatory statements I think he made about lying, but where do you come off talking about criminal things and conspiring?”
The U.S. intelligence community said in May that at least one of its 18 agencies is leaning toward the lab leak hypothesis. That same month, Biden ordered all of the spy agencies to “redouble” investigative efforts and gave them 90 days to report back.
The NIH contended this year that the NIAID "determined the research in the grant" to EcoHealth Alliance "was not gain-of-function research."
The letter from Paul referenced a 2016 report from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity that stated, “The term ‘gain-of-function’ is generally used to refer to changes resulting in the acquisition of new, or an enhancement of existing, biological phenotypes.”
The senator's letter pointed to 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which makes it a crime to make “any materially false, fictions, or fraudulent statement or representation” as part of “any investigation or review" conducted by Congress, and Paul told Garland, “I ask that you investigate whether Dr. Fauci’s statements to Congress on May 11, 2021 violated this statute or any other.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy