Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has called for a criminal investigation into Dr. Anthony Fauci, who the senator accused of lying to Congress about the funding of gain-of-function research that many believe led to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Paul asked the U.S. Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into Fauci, who, as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has positioned himself as the face of the government's COVID-19 response and denied that the National Institutes of Health had funded gain-of-function research at a lab in Wuhan, China.
Paul announced his intention to request that Attorney General Merrick Garland pursue charges against Fauci during an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity” Tuesday night: “I will be sending a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a criminal referral because he has lied to Congress.”
The Washington Examiner obtained a copy of the letter that Paul wrote to Garland and shared excerpts from it on Saturday.
“I write to urge the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation into testimony made to the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on May 11, 2021,” it reads in part.
Paul’s call for a criminal investigation into Fauci followed a testy exchange between the two during a July 20 Senate hearing on COVID-19 response where Fauci was asked about the NIH's funding of research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Fauci’s appearance before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, came more than a year after he first claimed that the virus occurred in nature, despite increasing evidence that supports the hypothesis that it was a manufactured virus that escaped from the lab in China that was being funded by American taxpayers.
The allegation that Fauci committed a federal crime results from comments he made during a May 11 hearing before the committee where he had a separate contentious exchange with the senator. After Paul characterized “gain-of-function research” as “juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses to infect humans,” he explained that “Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create superviruses” using a grant provided by the NIH.
“This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH. The collaboration between the U.S. and the Wuhan Virology Institute continues,” the senator added. When Paul asked Fauci if he still supported the NIH funding gain-of-function research at the WIV, the epidemiologist repeatedly denied that the NIH ever awarded such funding.
“The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” asserted Fauci, who's also the highest-paid employee in the federal government and medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
As Paul continued to press Fauci on the matter, Fauci thrice denied that the NIH, which oversees the NIAID, provided the Wuhan lab with funding to conduct gain-of-function research.
More than two months later, during the July 20 hearing, Paul cited testimony from Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, who concluded that research conducted in Wuhan “matches, indeed epitomizes, the definition of gain-of-function research.”
Ebright told National Review that “the Wuhan lab used NIH funding to construct novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses able to infect human cells and laboratory animals.”
According to Ebright, “This is high-risk research that creates new potential pandemic pathogens (i.e., potential pandemic pathogens that only exist in a lab, not in nature).” The scientist noted that federal funding for this research was paused between 2014 and 2017.
Paul cited Ebright’s analysis, which was featured in a National Review article published just two days after Fauci’s May 11 testimony, in addition to mentioning that lying to Congress constitutes a crime when questioning Fauci on Tuesday.
He then asked Fauci if he wanted to retract his statement claiming that the NIH never funded gain-of-research in Wuhan.
“I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci responded. “This paper that you are referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.”
Exasperated, Fauci responded by raising his voice in response to the senator, saying, “you do not know what you are talking about” regarding the definition of gain-of-function research. The two sparred about the semantics of the definition before Paul vowed that “There will be responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself.”
According to Section 1001 of the U.S. Criminal Code, any government official who makes “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent” statements could face up to five years in prison. Paul brought up this statute in his letter to Garland.
As The Christian Post previously reported, the Department of Health and Human Services has opened an investigation into the NIH’s grant program for international research as the debate about the origins of the coronavirus continues.
Earlier this year, Paul sponsored an amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 that would “prohibit the National Institutes of Health and any other Federal agency from funding gain-of-function research conducted in China.” The amendment passed by voice vote.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board noted in June that the NIH gave nearly $600,000 to the WIV through a nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance to study bat coronaviruses and how they infect human cells.
After many raised concerns that the virus wasn't natural and suspected that its origins came from the Wuhan lab, Fauci and other scientists touted a letter published in The Lancet that claimed the lab leak hypothesis was nothing more than a "conspiracy."
That letter, however, was "organized by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, which had funneled the NIH money to the WIV," the Journal's editorial board said, adding that Fauci and "his allies have obvious conflicts of interest" given their close ties to Daszak.
"Mr. Daszak, Dr. Fauci and all researchers involved in gain-of-function research would suffer significant reputational damage and perhaps lose funding if scientific research they supported caused a pandemic," the editorial board added.
As of Monday afternoon, the coronavirus pandemic is estimated to have killed more than 4 million people worldwide, including more than 600,000 Americans.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org