House Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra on Thursday evening, warning of potential subpoenas if his department fails to furnish requested data for the congressional inquiry into COVID-19’s origins.
“We have a constitutional duty to conduct thorough oversight and evaluate legislative solutions to address deficiencies and engrain proficiencies within the federal government,” wrote Republican Reps. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic; James Comer of Kentucky, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Morgan Griffith of Virginia, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky, chair of the Subcommittee on Health.
“The committees will use this investigation to inform potential legislation to improve pandemic preparedness, strengthen grant processes and oversight, and enhance biosafety and biosecurity of laboratory and field research,” the representatives wrote.
HHS has failed to produce requested documents since February, with supplementary requests previously dispatched in July and August, reported the Washington Examiner.
The written warning reiterates the demand for communication records, as well as letters and grant documents between the National Institutes of Health and the research organization EcoHealth Alliance, sent and received among prominent individuals at the NIH, including former NIH Director Francis Collins, former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, current acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, and current acting Assistant Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin.
The committees have additionally requested voluntary transcribed interviews with various research directors at NIAID, including acting Director Hugh Auchincloss.
These interviews are planned from late October and throughout the remainder of 2023. Transcribed interviews for Tabak and Collins have been scheduled for Dec. 5 and 12, respectively.
Additionally, the committees have requested voluntary transcribed interviews with the president of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, and two retired NIAID officials. These interviews are scheduled to take place in November.
The NIH has allocated substantial research funding to EcoHealth Alliance, an organization characterized in internal NIH documents as a prominent contributor to coronavirus research. EcoHealth Alliance has also provided funding for coronavirus research conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an institution under suspicion regarding its involvement in the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, according to the Washington Examiner.
“If the department fails to meet any of the prescribed deadlines, the committees will be forced to consider the use of the compulsory process,” the representatives wrote.
Sept. 21 is the stated deadline for document delivery to the committees.
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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