Nearly two dozen GOP lawmakers are accusing the Biden administration of stonewalling efforts to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
Twenty-one House Republicans sent a letter Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and National Institutes of Health (NIH) acting director Dr. Lawrence Tabak on Wednesday pushing each department head to produce long-requested information on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The institute is one of the leading suspects of the origin of COVID-19.
For months, HHS and NIH have failed to responded to GOP requests for documents regarding federal grant money that was awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, a research group that granted some of its received U.S. taxpayer money to the Wuhan lab to study coronaviruses in bats.
The Republicans also say they have yet to hear answers back over concerns about conflicts of interests among over a dozen top federal health officials who shaped the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and former NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. Collins resigned from the NIH in December.
Fauci, Collins, and 11 other top government scientist spent months downplaying or flatly denying that the WIV could have played a role in the development and release of COVID-19. The scientists played down the possibility despite being aware of serious concerns early on in 2020 that COVID-19 may have originated in the Chinese lab.
Since first requesting documents in May 2021, the Republicans are now accusing Becerra and Tabak of flagrantly ignoring and stonewalling the lawmakers’ requests for information. The letter says:
Rather than be transparent with Committee Republicans, HHS and NIH have chosen to hide, obfuscate, and shield the truth. This stonewalling is particularly troubling considering NIH’s direct involvement in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency’s policy or practice to destroy potentially pertinent documents related to grant making decisions. For example, we know that an NIH advisor was forced by NIH to shred notes and other documents pertaining to the WIV grants as early as 2014.
By continuing to refuse to cooperate with our request, HHS and NIH are choosing to hide information that will help inform the origins of the ongoing pandemic, prevent future pandemics, strengthen the United States’ national security posture, and restore confidence in our public health experts and infrastructure. The agencies’ continued obstruction is likely to cause irreparable harm to the credibility of these institutions. By providing the requested documents and information, HHS and NIH will have the opportunity to help our country move forward in a positive, transparent direction following the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an additional accommodation, we are providing more specificity to our original Requests. Therefore, we request the documents and information listed in the Appendix as soon as possible but no later than February 16, 2022. If HHS and NIH are unable to meet this deadline, please contact Committee Republican staff as soon as possible.