WASHINGTON – On Monday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), ranking member on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, announced that he, along with Senators Rand Paul (R- Ky.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), sent a letter on Friday to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra and the Director of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins requesting documents regarding the NIH’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Between June 1and June 4, 2021, the news media and public interest groups released approximately 4,000 pages of NIH emails and other documents these organizations received pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests,” the senators wrote. “These documents, though heavily redacted, have shed new light on NIH’s awareness of the virus’ origins in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senator Johnson is leading an effort in which he and four other members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs are requesting documents from federal agencies pursuant to a federal statute. Under the terms of the law, so long as five committee members request documents, the agency is required to produce documents to the senators.
The full text of the letter can be found here and below.
June 11, 2021
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
The Honorable Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20892
Dear Secretary Becerra and Director Collins,
Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 2954 we, as members of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, write to request documents regarding the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) 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.
Between June 1and June 4, 2021, the news media and public interest groups released approximately 4,000 pages of NIH emails and other documents these organizations received pursuant to 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 COVID-19 pandemic. In a January 9, 2020 email, Dr. David Morens, Senior Scientific Advisor to Dr. Fauci, emailed Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance, asking for “any inside info on this new coronavirus that isn’t yet in the public domain[.]” In a January 27, 2020 reply, Dr. Daszak emailed Dr. Morens, with the subject line: “Wuhan novel coronavirus – NIAID’s role in bat-origin Covs” and stated:
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.
On February 1, 2020, just five days after Dr. Daszak’s email about the Wuhan laboratory, Dr. Fauci sent an email to Dr. Hugh Auchincloss, with the subject line “Important” and attached a 2015 study by Dr. Ralph Baric and Zheng Li Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which discussed creating a “chimeric virus”, Dr. Fauci wrote:
Hugh: It is essential that we speak this AM. Keep your cell phone on…Read this paper as well as the email that I will forward you now. You will have tasks today that must be done.
It is unclear the extent to which NIH officials, including Dr. Fauci, considered the possibility that the virus originated in a laboratory and what, if any, actions they took to seriously investigate this possibility. It is also unclear why NIAID officials eventually decided to downplay the likelihood that the virus originated in a laboratory and, instead, promote that it originated naturally. In order to better assist Congress in performing its oversight function, please provide the following information:
- All records involving Anthony Fauci, Hugh Auchincloss, David M. Morens, F. Gray Handley, Francis Collins, Ping Chen, Peter Daszak, Ralph Baric, Zheng Li Shi, Lawrence Tabak, Jeremy Farrar, Kristian Anderson, Feihu Yan, Steven Holland, or James Le Duc referring or relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, COVID-19, coronavirus, EcoHealth Alliance, or Dr. Baric’s 2015 coronavirus study;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to the Washington Post’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request described in the June 1, 2021 article;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to BuzzFeed News’ FOIA request as described in the June 1, 2021 article;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request as described in the June 4, 2021 post; and
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to the following FOIA request IDs:
- 55007; and
5 U.S.C. § 2954 states:
An Executive agency, on request of the Committee on [Oversight and Reform] of the House of Representatives, or of any seven members thereof, or on request of the Committee on [Homeland Security and] Governmental Affairs of the Senate, or any five members thereof, shall submit any information requested of it relating to any matter within the jurisdiction of the committee.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is charged with studying:
the efficiency and economy of operations of all branches of the Government including the possible existence of fraud, misfeasance, malfeasance, collusion, mismanagement, incompetence, corruption or unethical practices, waste, extravagance, conflicts of interest, and the improper expenditure of Government funds in transactions, contracts, and activities of the Government or of Government officials and employees and any and all such improper practices between Government personnel and corporations, individuals, companies, or persons affiliated therewith, doing business with the Government, and the compliance or noncompliance of such corporations, companies, or individuals or other entities with the rules, regulations, and laws governing the various governmental agencies and the Governments relationships with the public.
Please provide the information requested in this letter as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 PM on June 25, 2021.
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations