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Tags: brad wenstrup | nih | house | investigation | pandemic

NIH Officials Pressed on COVID-19 Transparency Flaws

By    |   Tuesday, 28 May 2024 03:59 PM EDT

House Republicans said Tuesday they have evidence that suggests officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were instructed to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and avoid public transparency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chair of the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, detailed the evidence in a letter he wrote to NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli based on evidence received after it subpoenaed personal emails of David Morens, senior adviser to former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci.

"This evidence taken together suggests a conspiracy at the highest levels of NIH and NIAID to avoid public transparency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic," Wenstrup wrote. "A pandemic that took the lives of more than one million Americans. If what appears in these documents is true, this is an apparent attack on public trust and must be met with swift enforcement and consequences for those involved."

The documents show that Morens consulted with the NIH's FOIA office on best practices for deleting official records, going so far as to write in one email on Feb. 24, 2021, "I learned from our FOIA lady here how to make emails disappear."

The documents also showed Morens gave EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak preferential treatment by forwarding him potentially damaging FOIA productions before public release. Morens and Daszak even mention in a January 2022 email chain that their emails might suggest they were "'conspiring' together in some way."

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services suspended and began formal proceedings to permanently ban federal funding to Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance regarding controversial gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, believed to be from where the coronavirus leaked, causing the pandemic.

Morens testified before the select subcommittee last week that he had been in contact with the public records officer for NIAID but she had said there was no way to delete emails permanently from NIH records, the Washington Examiner reported. Morens also testified that he didn't realize emails from his government account were considered public records.

Wenstrup details other evidence, including that Greg Folkers, Fauci's former chief of staff, utilized FOIA evading tactics by strategically misspelling words. If the NIH searches its email server for key words that are responsive to a FOIA request, Folkers' emails that contain the misspelled key word are not identified or produced as a responsive document.

In a June 2021 email, Folkers appears to have misspelled "EcoHealth" as "Ec~Health."  Wesntrup wrote it "suggests this may have been a common tactic within NIAID and routinely employed" by Folkers.

Wenstrup requested a staff-level briefing from Bertagnolli no later than June 4 on the NIH's document retention, transparency, FOIA, and personal e-mail policies. Fauci is scheduled to testify before the select subcommittee June 3.

"NIH serves the American taxpayer," Wenstrup wrote. "The Select Subcommittee takes these allegations seriously and expects you do to."

Newsmax reached out to the NIH for comment.

Michael Katz

Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and politics.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
House Republicans said Tuesday they have evidence that suggests officials at the National Institutes of Health were instructed to evade the Freedom of Information Act and avoid public transparency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
brad wenstrup, nih, house, investigation, pandemic
494
2024-59-28
Tuesday, 28 May 2024 03:59 PM
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