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EXCLUSIVE: Republican senators raise questions after receiving unredacted Fauci email about Wuhan lab

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Five Republican senators are questioning why the Department of Health and Human Services redacted a portion of an email between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Peter Daszak, the president of a research organization that worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology on coronavirus studies before the pandemic.

Their inquiry is the latest attempt from the group to get public health agencies to turn over documents related to the way pandemic policies have been set behind the scenes.

The email in question gained widespread attention last month because Daszak, a key figure in research linked to the hypothesis that COVID-19 may have escaped from the Wuhan lab, thanked Fauci for downplaying the likelihood of a lab leak. It also gained attention after being released to media outlets under the Freedom of Information Act because the administration redacted a portion of the email using an exemption reserved for information related to “pending law enforcement proceedings.”

But HHS officials this week sent the senators an unredacted version of the email, which was obtained by the Washington Examiner, in response to one of two document requests the group had sent out weeks earlier — this one in pursuit of unredacted emails to and from Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Sens. Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, James Lankford, Rick Scott, and Josh Hawley sent a letter Thursday to the Democratic chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Gary Peters, pressing him to subpoena the Biden administration over documents that the agency has refused to produce.

They cited a law that requires agencies to comply with records requests backed by five or more members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“This law requires federal agencies to produce documents when five members of this Committee request the information,” the senators wrote to Peters. "We, therefore, ask that you hold this administration accountable and show your support for Congress’ right to information by initiating proceedings to serve subpoenas to compel compliance with our lawful demands.”

Beyond the Fauci emails, which they requested on June 11, the senators sought records regarding coordination between teachers unions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which they requested on May 19. Documents released through the Freedom of Information Act earlier had suggested the leaders of teachers unions had unusual influence over CDC recommendations for school reopenings.

In their Thursday letter to Peters, which was also obtained by the Washington Examiner, the senators noted that health agencies had, in response to both requests, handed over only documents that had already been released under the Freedom of Information Act, with the same redactions in place.

Congress is not subject to the same limitations on documents that the public does when asking for information under the act.

The one exception, according to the Republican lawmakers, was the email between Fauci and Daszak, which had been unredacted. The senators said it appeared HHS “may have forgotten” to redact the portion of the email that was previously hidden under the law enforcement standard.

“It's been a very hard few months as these conspiracy theorists have gradually become politicized and hardened in their stance,” Daszak wrote to Fauci and others in the unredacted version of the email.

“Especially because the work we've been doing in collaboration with Chinese virologists has given us incredible insight into the risks that these viruses represent, so that we can directly help protect our nation from bat-origin coronaviruses,” Daszak continued. “We're fighting to keep the communications open with our Chinese colleagues, so that we can better address future pandemics like COVID-19.”

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The Republican lawmakers questioned in their letter why that section had been previously redacted.

“The paragraph above does not appear to contain any information that ‘could reasonably be expected to interfere with [law] enforcement proceedings,” they wrote. “This example calls into question HHS’s redaction process, not only for FOIA requests from the public but also for documents produced to Congress.”

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Tags: News, Anthony Fauci, Wuhan Lab, Coronavirus, Teachers Unions, Rand Paul, Josh Hawley

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: EXCLUSIVE: Republican senators raise questions after receiving unredacted Fauci email about Wuhan lab

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