Lawmakers are reacting to reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci initially resisted a Trump-era order to cancel a controversial research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in April 2020.
Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, initially resisted a White House directive to cancel the NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance — a nonprofit conducting research on coronaviruses that had previously worked with the Wuhan lab some experts fingered as the origin of COVID-19 . He later “reluctantly agreed” after learning then-President Trump was directly behind the order, according to an upcoming book by Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta.
In the book titled, “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” Abutaleb and Paletta provide a behind-the-scenes account of how Fauci and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health responded to the White House’s directive.
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, center, speaks as Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, left, listen during a news conference. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In June of 2020, however, Fauci said the grant, worth a remaining $370,000, was “canceled because the NIH was told to cancel it,” and he didn’t “know the reason” behind the White House’s order during a House Energy and Commerce hearing after Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, asked why the Trump administration cut off NIH funding for EcoHealth.
Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are now reacting to the book excerpt in comparison to Fauci’s June 2020 comments before Congress and are repeating calls for an investigation into the virus’s origins and Fauci’s firing.
Fauci did not immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News.
“Dr. Fauci is so obsessed with maintaining his own relevance and downplaying President Trump’s role in combatting this crisis that he’s once again been caught lying,” Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told Fox News. “We need someone leading the pandemic response and our investigation into its origins who is more concerned with the truth than their own PR campaign. It’s time for Dr. Fauci to go.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said “there are many unanswered questions that can only be answered with a full investigation by Congress.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House minority whip, dons a messaging mask following a GOP strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“It is perplexing that [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi refuses to allow any formal investigation into the origins of COVID,” he said, adding that “without a real complete and transparent investigation…we have not been able to get the answers the American people deserve,” but Congress “will not stop working to get the facts.”
Scalise and more than 200 House Republicans have called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to direct committee chairs to investigate the origins of the virus and devote congressional investigatory resources to examining claims that the novel coronavirus pandemic stemmed from a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology which the Chinese Communist Party “covered” up.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., called the discrepancies between Fauci’s hearing comments and the book excerpt “very concerning,” saying it “goes to show just how important it is to have full investigation into the origins of COVID-19.”
“We owe it to the American people to find answers about how the pandemic happened and what Dr. Fauci knew and when he knew it,” he said.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said he became concerned about early reports of COVID-19 when it was being described as a new respiratory virus in December of 2019, and in February of 2020, he “called on Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats to hold hearings to ensure that America was prepared if the virus came to our shores, and that we understood exactly of how this virus originated.”
Security personnel gather near the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
He added, however, that “committee Democrats … lacked the curiosity.”
“Clearly over the last year, we have learned a great deal of the behavior of this virus and we have seen statements by experts change over time as more is learned,” Burgess said. “Dr. Fauci should be given and accept the opportunity to come before the committee again to provide, under oath, a fuller context to remarks attributed to him over the last year.”
The NIH’s decision to fund research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is an ongoing point of contention between Fauci and several Republican lawmakers. Sen. Rand Paul and others have alleged that Fauci was aware scientists at the Wuhan lab were conducting “gain of function” research on the virus – a charge Fauci has adamantly denied.
Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.