House Republicans pressed forward with their quest to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic by hosting their own hearing Tuesday — without Democrats or the ability to subpoena Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The fact-finding event, which took place in the Capitol Visitors Center as opposed to a traditional hearing room, was led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who also serves as ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
The group of GOP lawmakers moved forward with the unusually informal panel after growing tired of House Democrats’ refusal to schedule an official hearing on the issue of the virus’ origins.
“We have asked that question for more than a year and requested that the House majority hold hearings to investigate the origins of COVID. Perplexingly, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [(D-Calif.)] has refused to allow a single hearing — calling it a ‘diversion,’” Scalise said in his opening statement. “As the American people will hear today from our expert witnesses, this is far from a diversion.”
Both Scalise and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the leading Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, expressed their concerns about the ability to prevent the next pandemic if the US could not pinpoint where this last one began.
The minority whip called on Pelosi to “immediately take up the bill already passed by unanimous consent in the Senate that declassifies all intelligence related to the origins of COVID.”
“The very name of our committee is the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, yet Speaker Pelosi refuses to have a hearing on the origin of, you guessed it, the coronavirus,” he added, asking “What are they trying to hide?”
Ret. Adm. Brett Giroir, White House coronavirus testing czar under former President Trump, said in his testimony that, “[A]lthough we do not yet have indisputable evidence pinpointing the exact origin of the virus that causes COVID-19, I assess that the most likely origin was an accidental infection of laboratory personnel from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with secondary transmission to the local population and subsequent spread to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
While Giroir willingly testified, Dr. Anthony Fauci — who has faced a wave of scrutiny in recent weeks over criticism that he flip-flopped on his messaging on coronavirus rules and mandates, including mask wearing — declined to appear.
Criticism of Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, intensified earlier this month after thousands of his emails were released from his time advising Trump.
Those communications showed that Fauci was warned early on that the deadly disease may have been “engineered” and could have originated in a Chinese lab.
Despite this, he quickly dismissed the theory to the public.
Asked about the nation’s top infectious diseases expert refusing to testify, Scalise told The Post it was “disappointing.”
“Dr. Fauci needs to testify so we can find out what he knows about the COVID origins investigation, and we hope he will come before Congress soon to provide the American people with much needed answers,” he said.
Late last month, President Biden ordered US spy agencies to conduct a 90-day investigation into whether the virus that causes COVID-19 was released by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In a statement, he revealed that two theories predominate current US official thinking: that the virus emerged naturally from animals or that it escaped from the lab in Wuhan, China.
The White House said the next afternoon that it wasn’t ruling out any possibilities, including the deliberate release of the virus.
Biden’s abrupt pivot came after weeks of his administration repeatedly deferring to the World Health Organization for answers on how the pandemic started.
The lab leak theory gained traction after the Wall Street Journal reported in late May that three sick employees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in November 2019 — before the outbreak was officially confirmed.
Currently, the House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is tasked with investigating the origins of the virus.
Schiff has not yet held or scheduled a hearing on the matter, and indicated last month that he would continue to hold off until after Biden’s 90-day review.
“Beijing’s continued obstruction of a transparent, comprehensive examination of the relevant facts and data about the source of the coronavirus can only delay the vital work necessary to help the world better prepare itself before the next potential pandemic,” the Califoria Democrat said.
“It is critical that we allow the IC, and other scientific and medical experts, to objectively weigh and assess all available facts, and to avoid any premature or politically-motivated conclusions.”