Republicans turn up heat on calls to question Fauci about emails

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Congressional Republicans are calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci to answer questions about hundreds of his emails that came out this week, specifically about the origins of COVID-19.

Republican Whip Steve Scalise sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi which was signed by 209 Republicans demanding investigations into the theory COVID-19 may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Fauci has come under fire by some Republicans for being too quick to back Chinese denials that the coronavirus originated in the lab.

“The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of #COVID19,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted.

Two sets of emails were released, both via Freedom of Information Act requests. Those compel public agencies to turn over documents of public record, with some exceptions. The Washington Post did a story about the emails they received. BuzzFeed also requested emails and put them all online, but they are thousands of pages long and cannot be easily searched.

Some are pointing to an email Fauci received on Feb 1, 2020 from immunologist Kristian Andersen as proof he knew the virus could have come from a lab.

“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 the some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” Andersen wrote. She went on to write her team found “the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory. But we have to look at this much more closely.”

Fauci’s response was, “Thanks, Kristian. Talk soon on the call.”

However, her team’s investigation didn’t turn up any proof of human intervention. Six weeks later, Andersen published a paper concluding, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

Fauci referenced that study in answers throughout 2020, including at an April White House press briefing, when saying he didn’t believe the virus escaped from a lab.

Now, he says the theory should be investigated.

On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed criticisms against him, insisting, “Dr. Fauci is a renowned public servant.”

“He’s overseen management of multiple global health crises and attacks launched on him are certainly something we wouldn’t stand by,” Psaki said, adding that “everybody wants to get to the bottom of the origin” of COVID.

Asked by a reporter whether there are any circumstances under which Psaki could imagine that President Biden would fire Fauci, Psaki responded curtly, “No.”

Still, Republicans, many of whom began attacking Fauci with former president Donald Trump last year, say he should be questioned.

“[His emails] indicate that Dr. Fauci had knowledge or at least a suspicion of things not happening in an evolutionary manner very early on and he didn’t share that with the task force,” Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said. “That’s very troubling and something that we do need to get to the bottom of.”

Friday, Fauci repeated the explanation he gave to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert earlier this week that his emails were ripe to be taken out of context.

“It’s extremely easy to pull a phrase out of an email, and just give those words without the context of email, or take an email on one day, which says something that is a little bit uncertain,” he told NewsNation affiliate WPIX. “And then 5-10 days later, there’s another email that completely explains it. You show one email, but you don’t show the other.”

Last month, Sen. Rand Paul grilled Fauci over a theory that the U.S. gave grants to doctors performing gain of function research. That’s when scientists take viruses and alter them in a way that could make them more dangerous, but it’s done for research in controlled settings.

“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect, the [National Institutes of Health] has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute,” Fauci said that day.

He told NewsNation they did award specific scientists there a $600,000 grant in the 2000’s to research the virus that caused the SARS outbreak.

Paul accused Fauci of funding an American doctor’s gain of function research at a North Carolina lab that partnered with a doctor at the Wuhan lab. Fauci said the American doctor in question didn’t do that type of research to his knowledge.

During that same exchange, Fauci said he was, “fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China,”

So far, there are no planned hearings with Fauci.

The Associated Press and Joe Khalil contributed to this report.

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