The House panel investigating the coronavirus announced Friday it has served a subpoena on the National Institutes of Health to get records that could show a “coverup” intended to protect Dr. Anthony Fauci from scrutiny as he shaped the country’s response to the pandemic.
GOP lawmakers began asking questions earlier this year after discovering an email from Dr. Fauci’s assistant, Dr. David Morens, who said he always used his personal email and was willing to delete emails to hide his communications from open-records requests.
In another email, Dr. Morens explained that he had been assigned to talk to the press to try to shape the narrative on the origins of the coronavirus in order to prevent Dr. Fauci from having to put “his fingerprints” on the stories.
Using a personal email to evade federal records laws is a violation of policy and the House Oversight and Accountability has been trying to pry loose more documents to figure out what Dr. Morens was actually up to.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic, said the National Institutes of Health, where the two doctors worked, conducted an internal review of Dr. Morens’ behavior but has refused to share the results.
“This obstruction will not be tolerated,” the congressman said in a letter serving the subpoena on acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak.
Mr. Wesntrup’s subpoena demands NIH come clean on what it knows.
“Any government official who deletes federal records and purposefully sidesteps accountability to the American people must be thoroughly investigated,” the Ohio Republican said. “Today’s subpoena is another step in our pursuit to hold NIH and Dr. Morens accountable.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Fauci led until his retirement and where Dr. Morens still works as senior scientific adviser, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Dr. Fauci was a key face of the coronavirus pandemic, earning glowing media coverage as he first urged no masks, then reversed course and backed mask mandates and shutdown orders. He also shot down suggestions that the virus leaked from a lab, though experts now say that theory is a very viable explanation.
The chief focus has been on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting risky research on bat coronaviruses, funded in part with U.S. taxpayer money via the NIH.
Dr. Morens was among those trying to shoot down the lab leak theory in 2021.
According to one email he sent in September 2021, he seemed to admit to intentionally circumventing records laws.
“As you know, I try to always communicate on gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly,” he said, using the common acronym for the Freedom of Information Act, the tool the public can use to pry documents out of an unwilling bureaucracy.
Dr. Morens, in that email to colleagues, said his Gmail account had been “hacked” so he was alerting them they had to use his official account.
“Don’t worry, just send to any of my addresses and I will delete anything I don’t want to see in the New York Times,” he wrote.
In a July 2021 email, meanwhile, he wrote about efforts to combat the lab leak theory, saying that “my boss tony [Fauci] actually ASKED me to speak to the National Geographic on the record about origins. I interpret this to mean that our government is lightening up[,] but that Tony doesn’t want his fingerprints on origin stories.”
Mr. Wenstrup, in a letter to Dr. Morens in June requesting documents, said in the article Dr. Morens was writing about in the July 2021 email the doctor said it was “wasting time and being crazy” to continue to pursue questions about the origin of the virus.