Donald Trump‘s former White House chief of staff has urged Congress to hold another hearing with Dr Anthony Fauci, to question him on what he knew about suggestions that COVID-19 could have escaped from a laboratory.
Mark Meadows on Wednesday night told Fox News that the release of 3,000 of Fauci’s emails earlier in the day made another hearing essential.
Fauci has appeared before Congress several times to discuss the origins of the pandemic. He has confirmed that the U.S. did provide $600,000 over five years to the Wuhan laboratory, to fund their research into coronaviruses transmitted from animals to humans. He also told Congress that, even though the grant stipulated that no research be done into ‘gain of function’ – making viruses more lethal or transmissible – he had no way of guaranteeing that the money was not used for the controversial science.
On Wednesday his emails, obtained by BuzzFeed News via a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that Fauci was warned that the coronavirus was possibly ‘engineered’ in a lab before the pandemic started.
Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s chief of staff from March 2020 until the end of his presidency, on Wednesday night urged Congress to hold another session with Anthony Fauci, to ask him about his thoughts on COVID-19 having escaped from a lab. Fauci downplayed the idea, yet a tranche of more than 3,000 emails released on Wednesday showed that other respected scientists wrote to Fauci suggesting the virus was perhaps not naturally evolved but ‘engineered’
Fauci seemed to be taking it seriously behind closed doors, while downplaying the ‘lab leak’ idea in public.
‘Part of the troubling thing that we are seeing with these emails that are coming out is not only do they seem to correspond with what President Trump said, and what Secretary Pompeo said in terms of the origins of the virus, but it indicates that Dr Fauci had knowledge or at least a suspicion of things not happening in an evolutionary manner very early on,’ said Meadows.
‘And he didn’t share that with the task force.
‘That’s very troubling and something that we do need to get to the bottom of.’
Trump and Mike Pompeo, his Secretary of State, said from early in the pandemic that they believed the virus could have been man-made, and released by accident.
Their suggestion was derided as a conspiracy theory, designed to detract from any criticism of their own handling of the pandemic and the terrible toll it was taking on the U.S.
But in recent weeks the ‘lab leak’ theory has become increasingly mainstream.
Meadows appeared on Sean Hannity’s show alongside Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, who said: ‘They downplay it even though you have people in real time saying it was a real possibility that this virus started from a lab leak in Wuhan, China’
Meadows said that there needed to be another Congressional hearing, to find out why Fauci was so dismissive of the ‘lab leak’ theory in public – despite other scientists telling him it was possible.
‘When you start to look at this, when you look at the emails where you have at least probable cause to say that we need to look at it further, it’s troubling,’ said Meadows.
‘But the bigger part of it is to suggest that D. Fauci is making these declaratory statements that he wasn’t looking at.
‘Secretary Pompeo and I, we were able to look at intel on a regular basis and to suggest that Dr Fauci can come out and say there is no there there, just wasn’t based on real research.’
Meadows said that Republicans in the House and Senate needed ‘to hold the Democrats accountable.’
He added: ‘If they are at all wanting to hold China accountable, it’s time that the Democrats call this hearing in the House and let the truth come out.’
Jim Jordan, an Ohio congressman who appeared on the show alongside Meadows, said that Fauci had questions to answer.
‘They downplay it even though you have people in real time saying it was a real possibility that this virus started from a lab leak in Wuhan, China,’ he said.
Jordan criticized Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the World Health Organization – which Trump withdrew from at the start of the pandemic – and questioned again why the U.S. was funding research in China.
The research was done in China, Fauci has explained previously, because ‘that’s where the bats are’ that they need to study to understand the coronaviruses.
Fauci earlier on Wednesday evening defended himself, appearing on Chicago-based cable news show News Nation.
The 80-year-old admitted that he ‘should probably have been more specific’ in some of the wording of his emails, but defended their content – insisting it was easy to misinterpret and twist his meaning without context.
‘The only trouble is they are really ripe to be taken out of context when someone can take a sentence and say, based on an email from Dr Fauci, he said such and such,’ Fauci explained.
Asked why he said in one email, sent early on in the pandemic, that masks sold in pharmacies were not recommended, Fauci replied: ‘Let me explain, and it’s really important.
How Fauci flip-flopped on the origins of COVID
April 2020: Fauci repeatedly made public statements suggesting that that COVID was the result of an ‘unusual human-animal interface’ in a Chinese ‘wet market’ and that ‘the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.’
May 2020: Still adamant that he didn’t believe the coronavirus was man-made. ‘If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,’ he told National Geographic in an exclusive interview published May 4, 2020. ‘Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.’
Late May 2021 to early June 2021: During an event called ‘United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking,’ Fauci was asked if was ‘still confident’ that the virus evolved naturally.
‘No, actually … I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,’ Fauci said. ‘Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.’
He added: ‘So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.’
‘At the time we were saying it wasn’t necessary to be wearing masks, there were three things going on.
‘One is that there was a shortage for people who actually needed it – those taking care of patients.
‘I should probably have been more specific. There were a number of aspects to it, including the poor fitting.’
He was then cut off by the host, before he could explain further.
Fauci defended funding the Wuhan lab, insisting they had had ‘very many years of experience of productive interaction with Chinese scientists.’
He added: ‘You are absolutely correct that I can’t guarantee everything that is going on in the Wuhan lab.
‘It is our obligation to study the animal-human interface because we had a very difficult experience with SARS, which went from a bat to a civet cat to a human.
‘So it is very important to understand these.
‘You don’t want to go to Hoboken, New Jersey, or Fairfax, Virginia, to study the interface. So you go to China.’
Much of the attention has focused on a January 31, 2020 email – sent more than two months before the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Fauci forwarded a copy of Science magazine article titled ‘Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak’s origins’ to two people.
US virus researcher Kristian Andersen and Sir Jeremy Farrar, who runs a global health charity in Britain, were on the receiving end of the email.
‘This just came out today. You may have seen it. If not, it is of interest to the current discussion,’ wrote Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Andersen, who runs a viral genomics lab at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, replied: ‘The problem is that our phylogenetic analyses aren’t able to answer whether the sequences are unusual at individual residues, except if they are completely off.
‘The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.’
Andersen also noted that he and others ‘all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory’ but added that ‘there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.’
On March 30 and April 1, Andersen sent dozens of tweets in a thread after the World Health Organization released its report about the origin of the coronavirus.
In the thread, he included a tweet saying: ‘First of all, I have very carefully considered the possibility of a lab leak, dating back to January, 2020. A committee under the White House OSTP/NASEM was set up in response to these enquiries and I remain a member of that committee today.’
On Wednesday, after Fauci’s emails went viral, he tweeted a reply to Australian reporter Sharri Markson downplaying the idea of a cover up.
‘I know it’s super mundane, but it isn’t actually a ‘massive cover-up,’ Sharri. It’s just science. Boring, I know, but it’s quite a helpful thing to have in times of uncertainty,’ Andersen tweeted.
Two days later – February 2, 2020 – Farrar sent an email to Fauci and other US health officials.
Attached was a ZeroHedge article with the headline: ‘Coronavirus Contains ‘HIV Insertions,’ Stocking Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon.’
The messages were included in a batch of more than 3,200 of Fauci’s emails from January to June 2020 that were obtained and published by Buzzfeed on Tuesday.
The emails show Fauci received ‘a flurry of correspondence about the theory that coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan,’ Buzzfeed reported, including one email sent to Fauci on April 16, 2020 by Francis Collins.
Collins, the director of the National Institute of Health, wrote ‘conspiracy gains momentum’ in the subject line and included a link to a Mediaite news article referencing comments made a day earlier about the Wuhan lab leak theory by Fox News anchor Bret Baier.
The contents of Collins’ email was redacted.
Fauci replied on April 17 at 2.45am but his response also was blacked out. Fauci requested a ‘quick call’ with Collins in one of his earlier replies.
US virus researcher Kristian Andersen responded to a January 2020 Fauci email about COVID
NIH Director Dr Francis Collins (left) appeared to dismiss the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab as a ‘conspiracy’ in an email to Dr Anthony Fauci (right) on April 16 last year
The other email recipients included NIH Deputy Director Dr Lawrence Tabak, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Deputy Director Clifford Lane and NIH spokesman John Burklow.
The story linked in Collins’ original email was based on an April 15 broadcast on Fox News during which Baier told fellow anchor Sean Hannity that ‘multiple sources’ believed COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab before accidentally escaping.
‘This is from multiple sources who have been briefed at the beginning part of the origins of China and the beginning of the virus. They’ve also seen documents, open source and classified,’ Baier said.
‘We’ve asked to see those documents directly, but they are saying that it is increasingly likely, that there is increasing confidence that the virus – COVID-19 – started in a Wuhan lab.
‘They’re saying it occurred naturally because China was trying to show that they could be as good or better than the US in handling viruses, discovering viruses, and that this was a botched effort to contain this and it got out to the population.
‘They are 100 percent confident that China altered the data, the statistics, they did a lot of things to contain the information. Meanwhile, they cut down, as you mentioned, travel from Wuhan internally, but left the international flights going, and there obviously is how you have a spread like this.’
The subject line of Collins’ email to Fauci and several others at the National Institutes of Health was titled ‘conspiracy gains momentum’. It included a link to a Mediaite news article referencing comments made a day earlier about the Wuhan lab leak theory by Fox News anchor Bret Baier (above)
New evidence, including word of three workers at the Wuhan lab who fell seriously ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, has forced a sober reassessment among doubters
Fauci’s foes called for him to be fired on over the emails on Wednesday, with the hashtag #FireFauci gaining in popularity.
Steve Scalise, a Republican for Louisiana and the House Minority Whip, said: ‘Big Tech was censoring posts about the Wuhan lab leak.
‘The media was calling people who talked about the Wuhan lab leak conspiracy theorists.
‘All while Fauci himself was emailing about COVID-19 possibly leaking from the Wuhan lab. Let that sink in.’
At 7:30am, Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who has emerged as one of Fauci’s most vocal critics, tweeted: ‘Told you #firefauci … Can’t wait to see the media try to spin the Fauci FOIA emails.’
Four hours later – shortly before noon – Paul tweeted again saying: ‘But even more importantly than being a hero, he was a fraud. A massive fraud. The newly released trove of emails to and from Dr. Fauci makes that abundantly clear.’
Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are calling for Fauci to be fired
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also seized the opportunity to criticize Fauci, who’s considered America’s top infectious disease expert.
‘After reading through Anthony Fauci’s leaked emails, it’s more clear than ever that our country needs to #FireFauci,’ she tweeted.
The ‘lab leak’ theory is now being pursued at the highest level.
President Joe Biden last week ordered a 90-day intelligence review to investigate the possibility and several high-profile public health experts have come out in recent months saying they believe that’s how COVID-19 started.
Former CDC director Robert Redfield told CNN in March that he believes the virus ‘escaped’ from a Wuhan lab and started spreading as early as September 2019.
Even Collins appeared to change his tune as recently as last month while speaking to senators when he told them the Wuhan lab leak theory couldn’t be completely ruled out.
‘It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,’ he said.
There is continued discussion over whether COVID is a naturally-occurring virus that leaked by accident, or a more sinister genetically-modified virus that was meant to be confined to the Wuhan institute.
The media and academics long heaped scorn on the lab leak hypothesis, insisting that it was a fringe conspiracy theory and even racist after Trump embraced the idea.
But new evidence, including reports of three workers at the Wuhan lab who fell seriously ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, has forced a sober reassessment among doubters.
‘I think a lot of people have egg on their face,’ ABC News Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl admitted on Sunday.
‘Some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them.
‘Because Trump was saying so much else, that was just out of control… but now serious people are saying it needs a serious inquiry,’ he said.
Facebook also has been forced to reverse its policy censoring posts speculating that the virus was engineered in a lab, amid serious questions about the ‘gain of function’ experiments being done on coronavirus strains at the Wuhan lab.
Three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, before the virus began to spread around the world
China continues to furiously deny that the virus behind COVID-19 escaped from its lab in the original epicenter, accusing the United States of taking a ‘dangerous stance’ in calling for a full investigation into the possibility.
It comes after another trove of Fauci’s emails, published by the Washington Post, revealed his cozy relationship with China’s top infectious disease expert during the early days of the pandemic.
The emails were exchanged between Fauci and Dr George Gao – the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – in March and April of last year.
Fauci did not ask any questions about the origins of the virus.
In March, Gao had told Science magazine that it was a ‘big mistake’ for US experts including Fauci to tell their citizens that they did not need to wear face masks.
A subsequent email shows that Gao was anxious as to how Fauci would interpret the remark.
He wrote to Fauci on March 28 saying: ‘I saw the Science interview… That was journalist’s wording. Hope you understand. Lets work together to get the virus out of the earth.’
Fauci warmly replied: ‘I understand completely. No problem. We will get through this together.’
On April 3, Fauci formally reversed his stance on mask-wearing, telling Americans that they should cover their noses and mouths to stop the spread. The top doctor was slammed by numerous pundits and millions of Americans for giving mixed messages.
He later said he did so to try and prevent members of the public panic-buying masks when hospitals were struggling to obtain adequate supplies of PPE.
Less than a week later, Gao emailed Fauci again expressing his support amid the onslaught of attacks.
‘I saw some news (hope it is fake) that you are being attacked by some people. Hope you are well under such a irrational situation,’ Gao wrote on April 8.
‘Thank you for your kind note. All is well despite some crazy people in this world,’ Fauci replied three days later.