Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he plans to request a criminal referral from the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci.
The two got into a heated exchange Monday over Paul’s accusation that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded illegal gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has come under intense scrutiny as a possible source of the coronavirus. Gain-of-function is a method in which researchers make a pathogen more infectious, often to develop more effective treatments and vaccines.
The accusation is unsubstantiated and Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has repeatedly denied the claims. During a May hearing, Paul pressed Fauci on the issue and Fauci emphasized that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Paul on Tuesday asked Fauci if he would like to retract that statement, saying “as you are aware it is a crime to lie to Congress.”
Fauci said he would not retract the statement and was adamant that he has never lied before Congress.
“You do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you’re talking about…If anybody is lying here, senator, it is you,” Fauci said.
During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Paul was asked whether he thinks Fauci lied with regard to gain-of-function research and broke the law.
“Yes, and I will be sending a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a criminal referral because he has lied to Congress. We have scientists that were lined up by the dozens to say that the research he was funding was gain-of-function,” Paul told Hannity.
“He’s doing this because he has a self interest to cover his tracks and to cover his connection to Wuhan lab. Now does he deserve all the blame? No, there’s still some conjecture as to whether or not it came from the lab. But he’s lying about whether or not he funded gain-of-function research, and yes, he should be punished,” Paul said.
In May, NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement that neither NIH nor NIAID ever approved grants that would have supported gain-of-function research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.
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