In a move sure to devastate Democrats who’ve long been trying to blame the coronavirus pandemic on former President Donald Trump, the New York Post reports that House Republicans are demanding answers from the White House regarding research that may have been conducted at the American taxpayer’s expense at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China. The virology lab has been the center of recent speculation about the origins of the COVID-19, which U.S. officials are said to be investigating.
The demand for a briefing on the topic by the White House came from GOP Reps. Michael Waltz (FL) and Frank Lucas (OK), both members of the House Science Committee who aren’t convinced that everything is on the up-and-up when it comes to American-backed research in China.
According to the Post, driving their speculation are reports of the potential misuse of roughly $600,000 in federal grants — that is to say, American taxpayer money — that was sent to the WIV through an intermediary called EcoHealth Alliance.
It’s known that the funds were sent to the institute thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who admitted as much to House members last month.
What we don’t know for sure is what exactly this money funded.
According to the Post, Fauci told Congress that the money was “a modest collaboration with very respectable Chinese scientists who were world experts on coronavirus.” Fauci also said the funding was not approved to be used for risky gain-of-function (GOF) research.
But it remains unclear whether the WIV adhered to this rule, as the Post notes. Now, some are wondering if American taxpayer money was used by China in research that could have caused the coronavirus pandemic.
A letter to the president
It’s for this reason that Waltz and Lucas wrote to the White House demanding answers.
In their letter Thursday, the lawmakers asked to be briefed on the role of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the investigation ordered by President Joe Biden into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Post, Waltz and Lucas noted that this office has “historically played a central role in providing policy guidance and directives to agencies pertaining to GOF activities.”
“My committee has, has oversight of the Office of Science and Technology policy, right, which is…the key science advisory office at the White House that directly advises the president,” Waltz told the Post. “And the letter is getting at, what is the role of OSTP in this 90-day review of what intelligence we have on COVID origin?”
The Florida Republican went on:
But we also want to know more broadly, what is OSTP’s position, what are they doing to review the policies and procedures that once led to the resumption of gain of function research more broadly? Not just WIV…although that’s one of the primary institutions that’s conducting this research. And then, what is their position on reviewing grants and sub grants going forward? So how do we prevent this from happening again?
The two lawmakers said they hope to “get to the bottom” of what allegedly happened in Wuhan in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future. It remains unclear, however, whether the White House will bow to their demands.