A group of Republican senators has written a letter demanding records from the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services related to Covid-19 origins.
The origins of Covid-19, largely believed to be in a US-supported lab in Communist China in the city of Wuhan, has been hotly debated.
Many independent scientists have said from the start that it likely came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and clearly showed genetic hallmarks of man's intervention.
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However, government public health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci led a campaign to deflect attention from the likely lab origin. Fauci, and the National Institutes of Health where he served as a leader, used taxpayer money to support risky "gain-of-function" research in partnership with Communist Chinese scientists.
The controversial research was aimed at developing vaccines and other therapies for a strain of Covid found in bats.
To develop the vaccines, the gain-of-function research made a more dangerous version of bat coronavirus-- one that would spread in humans for the first time.
Many scientists believe that manipulated virus is what escaped from the Wuhan lab and unleashed the global pandemic.
China has refused to cooperate with the investigations into Covid origins and has refused the US access needed to determine more. Such access, say some researchers, could have helped stem the pandemic.
However, to date, US leaders have not done anything to punish China, hold it accountable, or discourage a repeat.
Below, you can read the announcement about the new demand for records.
Senator Johnson and Colleagues to HHS Secretary Becerra: Follow the Law and Provide Congress Records on COVID-19 Origins
Senators send a “group of five” letter; by law HHS must produce records
WASHINGTON – On Friday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), ranking member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, along with four senators from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including Ranking Member Rand Paul (R- Ky.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra demanding that he follow the law and produce records relating to the origins of COVID-19.
Pursuant to federal statute 5 U.S.C. § 2954, HHS must produce the requested documents so long as five Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members sign the letter. Sen. Johnson previously led a five-committee member letter to HHS on June 11, 2021. Since then, HHS has failed to follow the law and produce the requested documents to the committee.
During a March 22, 2023 hearing, Sen. Johnson confronted Sec. Becerra about HHS’s lack of compliance with the federal statute and called on him to produce all responsive records requested in the June 11, 2021 letter. Sec. Becerra affirmed that the senators “are absolutely entitled to the information that by law a member of the Senate or the House should get.”
The senators wrote, “[w]e appreciate HHS’s acknowledgement that we are ‘entitled…by law’ to the information we have requested.”
The senators’ most recent letter reiterates the requests made in the June 2021 letter and includes an additional request for HHS’s communications on Slack.
The full text of the letter can be found here and below:
March 31, 2023
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Becerra:
On June 11, 2021, we sent you and then-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins a letter pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 2954 requesting documents related to NIH’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the origin of SARS-CoV-2. To date, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has failed to fully comply with its legal obligation under that statute to provide the information requested. We write to reiterate our request, as well as request additional information relating to government officials’ communications about SARS-CoV-2.
During a March 22, 2023 hearing, Senator Johnson asked you about HHS’s lack of compliance with 5 U.S.C. § 2954. The senator called on you to commit to providing the documents requested in our June 11, 2021 letter pursuant to that statute. In response, you affirmed that we “are absolutely entitled to the information that by law a member of the Senate or the House should get.”
We appreciate HHS’s acknowledgement that we are “entitled…by law” to the information we have requested. In order to assist HHS in meeting its acknowledged legal obligation, the requests from our June 11, 2021 letter are listed below:
- All records involving Anthony Fauci, Hugh Auchincloss, David M. Morens, F. Gray Handley, Francis Collins, Ping Chen, Peter Daszak, Ralph Baric, Zheng Li Shi, Lawrence Tabak, Jeremy Farrar, Kristian Anderson, Feihu Yan, Steven Holland, or James Le Duc referring or relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, COVID-19, coronavirus, EcoHealth Alliance, or Dr. Baric’s 2015 coronavirus study;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to the Washington Post’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request described in the June 1, 2021 article;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to BuzzFeed News’ FOIA request as described in the June 1, 2021 article;
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request as described in the June 4, 2021 post; and
- Complete and unredacted copies of all documents and communications responsive to the following FOIA request IDs:
- 55007; and
In addition, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 2954, we request that you provide the following:
- All records referring or relating to SARS-CoV-2 contained in any Slack workspace, including any Slack workspace where an individual other than an HHS employee was the administrator.
5 U.S.C. § 2954 states:
An Executive agency, on request of the Committee on [Oversight and Accountability] of the House of representatives, or of any seven members thereof, or on request of the Committee on [Homeland Security and] Governmental Affairs of the Senate, or any five members thereof, shall submit any information any information requested of it relating to any matter within the jurisdiction of the committee.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is authorized to study or investigate:
the efficiency and economy of operations of all branches of the Government including the possible existence of fraud, misfeasance, malfeasance, collusion, mismanagement, incompetence, corruption or unethical practices, waste, extravagance, conflicts of interest, and the improper expenditure of Government funds in transactions, contracts, and activities of the Government or of Government officials and employees and any and all such improper practices between Government personnel and corporations, individuals, companies, or persons affiliated therewith, doing business with the Government, and the compliance or noncompliance of such corporations, companies, or individuals or other entities with the rules, regulations, and laws governing the various governmental agencies and the Government's relationships with the public.
Please provide the information requested in this letter as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 pm on April 14, 2023. As with our previous request, we remain willing to work with your department on rolling productions of the requested documents. We ask that the department prioritize the immediate production of the documents identified in the enclosed list (see Enclosure B) without redactions.
Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs
cc: The Honorable Gary Peters
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
The Honorable Richard Blumenthal
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
The Honorable Christi Grimm
Department of Health and Human Services