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House panel accuses NIH, NIAID officials of concealing COVID-19 records

May 30

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The House subcommittee investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic wrote a letter to the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Tuesday, May 28. The panel suggested that high-ranking officials within the NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conspired to conceal records and “avoid public transparency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These accusations come as Congress investigates the origins of COVID-19 and the lab leak theory, which alleges that scientists at the Wuhan lab were using NIH funds for gain-of-function research on coronaviruses, potentially making the virus strains stronger.

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Dr. David Morens, a former senior adviser to Dr. Anthony Fauci, served as the NIAID director from 1984 until his retirement in 2022. In June 2023, Morens was placed on administrative leave after his emails reportedly revealed an attempt to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by encouraging people to write to his personal Gmail account in case reporters filed a FOIA request for information on his government account. FOIA is a law that discloses government documentation upon request.

“As you know, I try to always communicate on gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly,” Morens wrote an email in September 2021.

He testified in front of the subcommittee last week, apologizing for “snarky and profane comments” made via his private email.

“I made them thinking they were made on my Gmail, my private email, in a manner that was just between a small group of friends and would never end up where it’s ended up,” Morens said. “It’s embarrassing to me, I shouldn’t have done it, but I accept that I’ve done it. I don’t know what to say except ‘I’m sorry.’”

The subcommittee recently subpoenaed Morens’ personal Gmail account, receiving 30,000 additional emails.

One of Morens’ Gmail emails from February 2021 revealed that he learned how to make emails disappear after receiving a FOIA request but before the search starts. In another exchange, he mentioned that both his Gmail and phone calls were now safe, while text messages and government emails were not.

Additionally, Fauci’s former chief of staff, Greg Folkers, allegedly misspelled words intentionally to avoid FOIA searches. For instance, an email from Folkers in June 2021 referred to virologist Kristian Andersen with the subject line “ANDERS$N,” using a dollar sign in his name to prevent it from appearing in email searches if someone requested information from his account.

“This is an apparent attack on public trust and must be met with swift enforcement and consequences for those involved,” subcommittee representatives said when asked about next steps if the reports were substantiated.

As of now, it remains unknown whether Fauci was aware of or complicit in exchanging sensitive government information through back channels. Fauci is set to testify publicly for the first time since his retirement in front of the subcommittee on Monday, June 3.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE HOUSE SELECT SUBCOMMITTEE INVESTIGATING THE ORIGINS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC – WROTE A LETTER TO THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH TUESDAY – SUGGESTING HIGH RANKING OFFICIALS WITH THE NIH AND NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES (NIAID) CONSPIRED TO CONCEAL RECORDS AND “AVOID PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY REGARDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

THE ACCUSATIONS COME WHILE CONGRESS IS INVESTIGATING THE ORIGINS OF COVID-19 AND THE LAB LEAK THEORY WHICH ALLEGES THAT SCIENTISTS AT THE WUHAN LAB WERE USING N-I-H FUNDS TO EXPERIMENT WITH GAIN-OF-FUNCTION RESEARCH ON CORONAVIRUSES – MAKING THE VIRUS STRAINS STRONGER. 

DAVID MORENS WAS A SENIOR ADVISOR TO DR. ANTHONY FAUCI AND ALSO SERVED AS THE NIAID DIRECTOR FROM 1984 UNTIL HIS RETIREMENT IN 2022.

IN JUNE OF 2023 – DR. MORENS WAS PLACED ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE – AFTER HIS EMAILS REPORTEDLY REVEALED – HE ATTEMPTED TO CIRCUMVENT THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT BY ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO WRITE TO HIS PERSONAL GMAIL ACCOUNT IN CASE HIS GOVERNMENT ACCOUNT WAS FOIA’D.

A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST – ALSO KNOWN AS A “FOIA” – IS A LAW THAT DISCLOSES GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTATION UPON REQUEST.

 IN SEPTEMBER 2021, DR. MORENS WROTE AN EMAIL SAYING: “AS YOU KNOW, I TRY TO ALWAYS COMMUNICATE ON GMAIL BECAUSE MY NIH EMAIL IS FOIA’d CONSTANTLY.”

MORENS TESTIFIED IN FRONT OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE LAST WEEK.

 [DR. DAVID MORENS]

 “I’VE ALREADY APOLOGIZED FOR MAKING SNARKY AND PROFANE COMMENTS. BUT I MADE THEM THINKING THEY WERE MADE ON MY GMAIL, MY PRIVATE EMAIL, IN A MANNER THAT WAS JUST BETWEEN A SMALL GROUP OF FRIENDS AND WOULD NEVER END UP WHERE IT’S ENDED UP. IT’S EMBARRASSING TO ME, I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE IT. BUT I ACCEPT THAT I’VE DONE IT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY EXCEPT ‘I’M SORRY.’”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE SUBCOMMITTEE RECENTLY SUBPOENA’D MORENS’ PERSONAL GMAIL ACCOUNT AND RECEIVED 30-THOUSAND ADDITIONAL EMAILS.

IN ONE OF HIS GMAIL EMAILS FROM FEBRUARY 2021, HE WROTE: “I LEARNED FROM OUR FOIA LADY HERE HOW TO MAKE EMAILS DISAPPEAR AFTER I AM FOIA’D BUT BEFORE THE SEARCH STARTS, SO I THINK WE ARE ALL SAFE. PLUS I DELETED MOST OF THOSE EARLIER EMAILS AFTER SENDING THEM TO GMAIL.”

 IN ANOTHER EXCHANGE MORENS SAID: “BOTH MY GMAIL AND PHONE CALLS ARE NOW SAFE. TEXT IS NOT, AS IT CAN BE FOIA’D, AS CAN MY GOVT EMAIL.”

 AND ANOTHER: “INCIDENTALLY, TONY [FAUCI] AND I AND A FEW OTHER PEOPLE HERE ALL GOT A HUGE FOIA YESTERDAY SEEKING ANY AND ALL DOCUMENTS, EMAILS, ETC., THAT MENTION THE WORDS “WUHAN INSTITUTE’ OR ‘WIV.’ IT APPEARS THAT THIS COMES FROM FOLKS TIED TO POLITICS, WHO WANT SPECIFICALLY TO KNOW ABOUT ANYTHING NIH HAS HAD TO DO WITH WIV, OR ANY SCIENTISTS WORKING WITH WIV. THE ORIGINAL REQUEST WAS I THINK FAR BROADER, BUT WE NEGOTIATED IT DOWN TO JUST THOSE TWO TERMS. YOU[R] NAMES WILL NOT SHOW UP IN THIS FOIA, AT LEAST NOT FROM MY INFO.”

IN IT’S LETTER TO THE N-I-H, THE SUBCOMMITTEE ALSO ACCUSED NIAID EMPLOYEES OF INTENTIONALLY MISSPELLING WORDS TO AVOID FOIA SEARCHES.

FOR EXAMPLE – DR. FAUCI’S FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, GREG FOLKERS, WROTE AN EMAIL FROM HIS GOVERNMENT ACCOUNT IN JUNE 2021 – WRITING ABOUT VIROLOGIST KRISTIAN ANDERSEN. THE SUBJECT LINE READ “ANDERS$N” – USING A DOLLAR SIGN IN HIS NAME ALLEGEDLY SO IT WOULDN’T APPEAR IN EMAIL SEARCHES IF HIS ACCOUNT WAS FOIA’D.

THE SUBCOMMITTEE SAID IF THESE EMAILS ARE TRUE, “THIS IS AN APPARENT ATTACK ON PUBLIC TRUST AND MUST BE MET WITH SWIFT ENFORCEMENT AND CONSEQUENCES FOR THOSE INVOLVED.”

AT THIS TIME, IT’S UNKNOWN IF DR. ANTHONY FAUCI WAS AWARE OF OR COMPLICIT IN EXCHANGING SENSITIVE GOVERNMENT INFORMATION THROUGH BACK CHANNELS.

[JAMES COMER]

“ON OCTOBER 25, 2021, ANOTHER SCIENTIST WROTE QUOTE, ‘DAVID IS CONCERNED HOW THE PRIVACY OF TEXT AND OTHER MESSAGES FROM HIS CELL PHONE TO YOU AND ME BECAUSE HE’S BEEN USING A GOVERNMENT PHONE. THIS CAME FROM TONY,’ END QUOTE. SIR, DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH DOCTOR FAUCI REGARDING USING PERSONAL PHONE OR EMAIL TO COMMUNICATE WITH DOCTOR DASZAK?”

[DR. DAVID MORENS]

“I DON’T REMEMBER, IT’S POSSIBLE. YOU KNOW, I PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE REMEMBERED AND I DON’T REMEMBER IT. HE AND I USUALLY NEVER TALKED ABOUT THAT KIND OF STUFF. IT WOULD BE VERY UNUSUAL IF THAT HAPPENED.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

FAUCI IS SET TO TESTIFY PUBLICLY – FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE HIS RETIREMENT — IN FRONT OF THE SELECT SUBCOMMITTEE ON JUNE 3RD.

FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS, I’M LAUREN TAYLOR.

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