GOP Sen. Johnson requests Defense Department investigation into COVID-19 origins

"Dr. Fauci has not been forthright with the American people regarding his involvement in funding dangerous research," the Wisconsin senator said.
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Senator Ron Johnson.
Senator Ron Johnson Kiev, Ukraine, on 5 September, 2019.
(STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has requested information about a Defense Department investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

The request follows the recent publishing of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) report.

The Marine who reportedly wrote the report describes a proposal to use controversial gain-of-function techniques to study bat coronaviruses. The proposal, according to the report, was rejected by DARPA and subsequently picked up by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which funded the research via a sub-grant to the EcoHealth Alliance. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, has repeatedly claimed that his agency did not fund gain-of-function research into bat coronaviruses, though the agency did provide EcoHealth Alliance grants to conduct research in Wuhan, China, were the virus was first detected.

"It is apparent that Dr. Fauci has not been forthright with the American people regarding his involvement in funding dangerous research," Johnson, of Wisconsin, recently told the Daily Caller.

In a letter to Defense Department, the senator writes, "According to the Major’s disclosure, EcoHealth Alliance (EcoHealth), in conjunction with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), submitted a proposal in March 2018 to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) regarding SARS-CoVs. The proposal included a program, called DEFUSE, that sought to use a novel chimeric SARS-CoV spike protein to inoculate bats against SARS-CoVs.

"Although DARPA rejected the proposal, the disclosure alleges that EcoHealth ultimately carried out the DEFUSE proposal until April 2020 through the National Institutes of Health and National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The disclosure highlights several potential treatments, such as ivermectin, and specifically alleges that the EcoHealth DEFUSE proposal identified chloroquine phosphate (Hydroxychloriquine) and interferon as SARS-CoV inhibitors."

In a claim that has not been verified, the report also posits that the novel coronavirus was created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

Johnson is asking the department to interview the Marine who reportedly authored the report, undertake an investigation into the claims presented in the report and issue a briefing detailing the findings of both.