House Oversight Committee Republicans on Wednesday called on the Biden administration to hand over documents related to federal grant money provided to EcoHealth Alliance that was sub-awarded to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research.
A letter signed by Ranking Member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and the other committee Republicans invoked federal law to have the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services turn over the documents, which they had previously requested in July. That request went unanswered, the Republicans said.
“A series of events documented in communications from February to April 2020 raise serious concerns about conflicts of interest and abuse of government resources,” the letter states.
“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," they asserted.
The letter was first reported by Henry Rodgers for the Daily Caller.
EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit group that supports virus research across the globe, has received millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funding for coronavirus research in China as well as many other projects. Between 2014 and 2019, the group provided $600,000 in NIH subgrants to the Wuhan lab to study bat coronaviruses. Those grants have become controversial as evidence emerged that the Wuhan lab was possibly involved in risky experiments that artificially make viruses more transmissible among mammals and potentially among humans.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is located just 20 miles away from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where scientists initially believed the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Officials from the Wuhan lab later claimed that the virus originated elsewhere and the market was the site of a super-spreader event. But questions remain over the virus' origins, including whether the virus was somehow leaked from the lab as a result of experiments there — a claim disputed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Francis Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, and other prominent scientists and public officials.
The letter notes that the NIH had failed to produce documents on the 2014 grant sub-awarded to the Wuhan lab after multiple inquiries from lawmakers. The Republicans also raised concerns over Fauci's emails, which indicated that in early 2020, top government officials were warned of the possibility of a lab leak causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci and other top officials would go on to vigorously deny that the Wuhan lab, which received U.S. taxpayer funding, played a role in the origins of the pandemic.
Republicans say the NIH and HHS need to provide documents to answer some of the unresolved questions surrounding taxpayer funding for the Wuhan lab. They have also requested unredacted copies of Fauci's emails to be made available to the committee.
“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 letter says.
"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,” the lawmakers wrote.
The NIH and HHS were given a Feb. 16 deadline to respond.