Major funder of Wuhan lab refuses House request for docs as Democrats fail to subpoena
Peter Daszak has been at the center of SARS-Cov-2 controversy since last year.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
A major conduit of federal research funding to the Chinese coronavirus lab at the center of ongoing speculation over the origins of the SARS-Cov-2 virus is not complying with a months-old request from House Republicans for documentation related to his work with that lab, while Democrats in the House have failed to issue a subpoena to compel that evidence.
Peter Daszak, the president of the U.S. nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, has been the subject of growing scrutiny over the last several months regarding his role in the funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. For several years leading up to the pandemic, EcoHealth Alliance funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal research grants to the WIV for the study of potential pandemic coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab.
As government investigators and journalists dig to uncover the full scope of Daszak's links to the WIV, Daszak is continuing to spurn a congressional request for that information.
In April, Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent Daszak a letter directing him to submit, among many other documents, "all letters, emails, and other communications between [EcoHealth] and [the WIV] related to terms of agreements, bat coronaviruses, genome or genetic sequencing, SARS-CoV-2, and/or laboratory safety practices" pursuant to key NIH research funding through EcoHealth to the Wuhan lab as a grant sub-recipient.
Yet Daszak himself has not cooperated with the request. An aide with the Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed to Just the News this week that the committee has "received no response still from EcoHealth Alliance and Peter Daszak to the April 16th letter from Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith."
Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has also publicly noted Daszak's refusal to cooperate with the request made roughly two and a half months ago.
"We have asked Daszak to provide information we know he has that sheds light on the origins of this pandemic," Rodgers said during a House subcommittee hearing this week. "But he refuses to cooperate."
"Dr. Daszak, you received American funds you used to conduct research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Rodgers continued. "You owe it to the American people to be transparent."
Subpoena powers rest with Democrats
Neither Daszak nor multiple GOP and Democratic members of the committee responded to requests for comment on Daszak's failure to produce the documents.
The committee itself could subpoena Daszak for the materials; both House and Senate committees enjoy subpoena powers pursuant to investigations within their congressional purviews, something that has been upheld by the Supreme Court several times.
Yet subpoena power in both chambers is controlled by whichever party is in the majority. Democrats still hold a slim majority in the House, meaning the ultimate authority to compel Daszak to produce the documentation rests with that party, specifically in this case with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone.
Why a subpoena has not been issued after more than two months is unclear. Pallone's office was among those that did not respond to requests for comment.
The SARS-Cov-2 origin debate, meanwhile, has over the past year largely fallen along party lines. The "lab-leak theory" was most prominently advanced by then-President Donald Trump early last year. It was roundly rejected by most scientific authorities at the time, with virologists and other researchers claiming the evidence indicated a natural origin of the virus.
Over the past year — in particular since the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January — popular consensus has shifted on the issue. Little new evidence has emerged to support the lab-leak theory, but a growing chorus of scientists have insisted that the lab-leak theory must be thoroughly investigated.
Several public health officials and scientists, meanwhile, have alleged that a significant number of scientists last year were motivated to reject the lab-leak theory not by scientific judgment but by political opposition to President Trump.
"In the beginning, there was a lot of pressure against speaking up, because it was tied to conspiracies and Trump supporters," one Yale immunologist said earlier this year.