Republican leaders on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees released excerpts of emails Tuesday that they say reveal National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci knew that COVID-19 may have been intentionally modified and leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, pointed to a Feb. 1, 2020, conference call that included Fauci and former National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins in which the virus's origins were discussed.
"It was on this conference call that Drs. Fauci and Collins were first warned that COVID-19 may have leaked from the WIV and, further, may have been intentionally genetically manipulated," the Republicans' letter said.
The congressmen said that "it is unclear if either Dr. Fauci or Dr. Collins ever passed these warnings along to other government officials or if they simply ignored them."
The letter said other scientists participated in the call, four of whom wrote a paper titled, "The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2" that they sent to Fauci and Collins three days after the call. The article did not argue that the virus originated in the lab.
The Republicans are now questioning whether the lab leak theory was dropped due to influence from Fauci and/or Collins.
"It is unclear what, if any, new evidence was presented or if the underlying science changed in that short period of time, but after speaking with Drs. Fauci and Collins, the authors abandoned their belief COVID-19 was the result of a laboratory leak," Comer and Jordan said, adding that they do not know whether Fauci or Collins edited the paper before it was published in Nature Medicine.
According to Comer and Jordan, the emails contain notes from the Feb. 1, 2020, conference call. One, from Dr. Jeremy Farrar to Collins, Fauci and current NIH Acting Director Lawrence Tabak, stated that "a likely explanation" could involve "accidently creating a virus that would be primed for rapid transmission between humans[.]"
Discussing the similarities to a bat coronavirus and the very specific differences, Farrar said he "just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature."
In response, however, Collins wrote that he was "coming around to the view that a natural origin is more likely."
By April, Collins, Fauci, Tabak and others were emailing about a "very destructive conspiracy," linking to an article about the lab leak theory.
"I hoped the Nature Medicine article on the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 would settle this. But probably didn't get much visibility," Collins said.
"I would not do anything about this right now. It is a shiny object that will go away in time," Fauci wrote back.
The same day Fauci wrote that email, Comer and Jordan's letter said, Fauci mentioned the Nature Medicine article while speaking at the White House, "likely in an effort to further stifle the hypothesis COVID-19 leaked from the WIV."
Comer and Jordan are now asking HHS for information regarding whether Fauci and Collins warned anyone at the White House about the lab leak theory, whether there was new evidence between Feb. 1 and Feb. 4, 2020, that convinced them it was not a leak, and whether they edited the content of the Nature Medicine article.
The congressmen are also calling for Fauci to appear for a transcribed interview where they can discuss this matter.
"Time for answers," the House Oversight Committee Republicans tweeted Tuesday morning.
Fox News reached out to the NIH and NIAID for comment, but they did not immediately respond.
Fauci is among several top health officials appearing Tuesday morning before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee to discuss the federal response to new variants of COVID-19.