Leaders on the House Oversight Committee plan to seek access to the personal email account of a top National Institutes of Health aide who allegedly violated federal records law to avoid public scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic told the Washington Examiner that the committee “will be taking further steps” to access the personal Gmail account of David Morens, who was an adviser to former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, after Morens provided testimony Thursday that the panel “seriously questioned.”
Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) led a transcribed interview with Morens on Thursday to investigate his role in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. During his testimony, Morens denied deleting records on the origins of COVID-19 and using his personal email account to skirt investigations.
“Since the NIH has refused to keep us apprised of its ongoing investigation, the Select Subcommittee must ensure that the Administration is not attempting to cover-up any wrongdoing,” the Republican spokesperson said.
Investigations from the subcommittee this summer into the origins of COVID-19 revealed that Morens encouraged colleagues to utilize his personal Gmail account instead of his NIH address because he was “constantly” receiving Freedom of Information Act requests. Morens also told colleagues that he would “delete anything” he did not want “to see in the New York Times.”
“As a top advisor to Dr. Fauci and a close friend to EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, Dr. Morens likely had unmatched access to COVID-19 origins material,” said the Republican spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Subcommittee Democrats told the Washington Examiner that they “remain concerned about the willful evasion of public transparency requirements, which NIH and NIAID have dutifully upheld for decades.”
Morens was removed from his position at the NIH last year after the National Archives began its investigation into evidence unearthed by the subcommittee about potential federal records violations.
The subcommittee subpoenaed Morens in October, and he was scheduled to appear before the subcommittee in late December. That interview, however, was terminated early because Morens was prohibited from answering questions about the origins of COVID-19 by counsel from the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the subcommittee’s majority report of the interview, Morens said on Thursday that he had not explored any of the scientific evidence suggesting a potential lab leak of SARS-CoV-2.
Morens also denied deleting any information relating to the origins of COVID-19 or forwarding any federal records to his Gmail account.
Representatives from both sides of the aisle pressed Morens on the use of his private email for official NIH communication during his transcribed interview testimony.
The Democrat spokesperson also said that they appreciate the “ongoing efforts to evaluate and address this matter” from the National Archives and the NIH.
“Ensuring all public health officials, including Dr. Morens, are held accountable for failures during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a top priority for the Select Subcommittee,” said the majority spokesperson.