Top White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci is still facing fallout from the public release of thousands of his COVID-related emails earlier this year.
Specifically, five GOP senators are demanding to know why the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) redacted a portion of one email from a Fauci associate linked to the Chinese lab where the pandemic virus possibly originated, the Washington Examiner reports.
Republicans raise concerns
The question reportedly arose after the senators viewed an unredacted version of the message and concluded that what had been withheld in the publicly released email did not appear to warrant such a redaction under a code that refers only to “pending law enforcement proceedings.”
As a result, the senators expressed a desire to know whether the HHS had mistakenly used the wrong code, redacted the material because it could prove embarrassing, or if there is something troubling that occurred behind the scenes that would warrant the move.
At issue is an email to Fauci from Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance. The bioresearch group reportedly funneled U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which conducted experiments on bat coronaviruses.
Daszak thanked Fauci in the April 2020 email for his public comments downplaying the “conspiracy theory” that the virus had been manipulated and released from the Wuhan lab.
For their part, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Josh Hawley (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Rick Scott (R-FL) wanted to see the redacted portion. Since they are all members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, they were entitled to see the full document under a law stipulating that government agencies must provide such information if five or more panel members request it.
“Calls into question HHS’s redaction process”
Although they eventually obtained an unredacted copy, it apparently only served to raise more questions than it answered.
According to the Washington Examiner, Daszak wrote in the redacted portion: “It’s been a very hard few months as these conspiracy theorists have gradually become politicized and hardened in their stance.”
He went on to assert that “the work we’ve been doing in collaboration with Chinese virologists has given us incredible insight into the risks that these viruses represent, so that we can directly help protect our nation from bat-origin coronaviruses.”
The group of Senate Republicans wants to know why that particular portion had been redacted by HHS, concluding: “The paragraph above does not appear to contain any information that ‘could reasonably be expected to interfere with [law] enforcement proceedings.'”
They argued that the situation “calls into question HHS’s redaction process, not only for [Freedom of Information Act] requests from the public but also for documents produced to Congress.”