House Republicans May Charge Fauci Aide Over Email Scandal


House Republicans are considering whether to recommend criminal charges against the senior advisor to former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci.

David Morens, a top aide to Fauci who is set to give his first public testimony before Congress on Wednesday, has been central to investigations by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic since June 2023, when the panel discovered emails indicating that he used his personal Gmail account for official COVID-19 business to evade Freedom of Information Act requests.

Morens was summoned to testify publicly before the subcommittee because of inconsistencies between uncovered documents and his transcribed interview testimony from January.

“At the very least, he misled Congress through his transcribed interview,” subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) told Truth Voices in an exclusive interview ahead of the hearing. “Lying to Congress is a felony.”

Morens’s attorney declined to respond to Truth Voices’s request for comment.

Relationship with EcoHealth Alliance

Morens has a close personal relationship with Peter Daszak, head of the nonprofit research firm EcoHealth Alliance, which used National Institutes of Health grants to fund coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Certain House Republicans argue that experiments conducted by EcoHealth at WIV led to the creation of the COVID-19 virus.

EcoHealth Alliance has previously told Truth Voices that all allegations of misconduct are misunderstandings of the circumstances and that the organization has not engaged in misconduct.

Bipartisan findings from the subcommittee’s investigation into EcoHealth allege that the nonprofit intentionally misled NIH about the type of experiments being conducted at the Wuhan lab and failed to report potentially dangerous pathogen research to the proper U.S. authorities.

Following the subcommittee’s recommendations, the Department of Health and Human Services suspended the organization from all federal funding pending permanent debarment proceedings.

Morens, who describes Daszak as his “best friend,” likely had a role in advising Fauci to approve the grant for EcoHealth to work with WIV scientists on bat coronaviruses.

Wenstrup told Truth Voices that emails between Morens and Daszak on Morens’s personal email show that the NIH employee “was clearly trying to show [Daszak] ways to try and get his grant reinstated” after the EcoHealth project at the WIV had been suspended by the Trump administration in 2020.

This email evidence contradicts what Morens told the subcommittee during his January transcribed interview.

Personal email scandal

Last summer, the subcommittee unearthed emails sent by Morens in 2021 instructing colleagues to use his personal Gmail address to avoid FOIA requests, adding that he would “delete anything [he doesn’t] want to see in the New York Times.”

Emails voluntarily published by Daszak and EcoHealth in April confirm allegations from the subcommittee that Morens requested Daszak and other colleagues communicate with him via Gmail rather than his official NIH email address.

Following this document leak, the subcommittee subpoenaed Morens’s personal email account for all communications related to official NIH business and the origins of COVID-19. Wenstrup said Morens had complied with the subpoena, sending over 30,000 pages of documents.

“He denied discussing EcoHealth and the WIV with Dr. Fauci, but in his emails, he did. He denied conducting official NIAID or NIH business over his personal emails. He did,” Wenstrup said, outlining what the subcommittee has found so far in the document dump.

Wenstrup also told Truth Voices that other subpoenaed emails show Morens contacted experts in FOIA requests on strategies to avoid submitting to the public oversight tool.

“It’s like asking the police, ‘How do I not get arrested for breaking the law?’” Wenstrup said.

Potential criminal investigation

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed for Truth Voices that Morens did not provide a written opening statement before the hearing, a highly unorthodox choice as most take the opportunity to present their case to the congressional panel.

Wenstrup said the evidence they have reviewed may lead the subcommittee to recommend criminal charges for Morens to the Department of Justice, although more work is necessary to determine what charges would be appropriate.

“As we go through it and learn more, we may make some criminal referrals,” Wenstrup said. “Hopefully we have a Department of Justice that’s willing to act when laws have been violated.”

Subcommittee Republicans have already recommended that the DOJ investigate Daszak for violations of criminal statutes for knowingly making false claims to obtain government funds and deceiving the U.S. government by fraud.

It is unclear whether a similar procedure would be followed in the case of potential criminal recommendations against Morens.

Although Wenstrup did not seem confident of strong bipartisan support on the issue, ranking member of the subcommittee Raul Ruiz (D-CA) told Truth Voices in October that he supports the investigation of Morens as long as it is not misconstrued to suggest that Morens was involved in suppressing the lab leak theory of origin for the virus.

“The willful evasion of public transparency requirements by any government official is unacceptable and a clear violation of the public’s trust, which NIH and NIAID have dutifully upheld for decades,” Ruiz said last fall.

In a hearing before the subcommittee last week, former acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak confirmed that Morens is still an employee of the agency despite being placed on administrative leave.

During the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tabak served as the deputy ethics counselor until he took over as acting director in December 2021.

Gabrielle M. Etzel
Gabrielle M. Etzel
Healthcare Reporter. Previously, Etzel served as a staff reporter at Campus Reform and as a freelance writer. After graduating from Grove City College, she earned her master's in public policy and administration from Baylor University, where she conducted research on domestic sex trafficking. In her free time, Etzel enjoys being with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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