As Joe Biden met with Xi Jinping on the West Coast, one of China’s favorite scientists had a rough day on the East Coast — where he revealed to Congress that his ties to controversial coronavirus research were deeper than suspected.
Peter Daszak, head of the controversial EcoHealth Alliance, was summoned to a closed-door, transcribed interview by the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee of the Coronavirus Pandemic, where he was pressed solely by Republican lawmakers and the committee’s bipartisan staff on everything from gain-of-function research to his 2021 trip to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
During his interview, Daszak told the committee that he visited the WIV two years ago, after which he briefed Anthony Fauci — a briefing that came as news to the subcommittee.
Daszak also confirmed for the first time that he had been warned about the extent and potential danger of the coronavirus pandemic before the Chinese Communist Party revealed it to the world, prompting some to wonder why he did not speak out himself.
Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a longtime doctor, told me Daszak “remained calm throughout the proceedings and had a few minor contradictions.”
While the Covid committee that Miller-Meeks sits on is bipartisan, the failure of Democratic elected officials to show up during the interview did not go unnoticed. “If congressional Democrats had shown up at this hearing, it would have been like Dracula confronting the cross,” one longtime China hawk Hill staffer told me.
For months, the Covid Select Committee has sought Daszak’s testimony, given his organization’s close work on gain of function research in the WIV — which prompted some Republicans such as Representative Morgan Griffith to demand previously that EHA be debarred from federal government contracts.
The EcoHealth-tied WIV is at the heart of the lab leak theory of Covid’s origins, which congressional Republicans have made a priority to investigate. Vanity Fair extensively reported on how EHA, under Daszak, had shoddy finances, delayed reports and transformed into a “government-funded sponsor of risky, cutting-edge virus research in both the US and Wuhan, China.”
Daszak, who showed up to the Hill in an EcoHealth baseball cap, sat for almost ten hours in his closed-to-the-press interview.
His testimony comes as the Covid Select Committee has been kicking its work into high gear, subpoenaing Biden administration officials left and right after Republicans finally sorted out their House speaker math. Last month, the committee subpoenaed Dr. David Morens, a close advisor to Anthony Fauci who many believe deleted federal Covid-19 records — and who Daszak described as a “mentor” during the interview.
Earlier this month, the committee, at its wits’ end, subpoenaed the Department of Health and Human Services official in charge of interfacing with Congress, Melanie Egorin — because she had been avoiding interfacing with Congress.
Egorin’s evasion of congressional scrutiny has been at times almost comical. At one point, the day before she had been scheduled to meet with the committee, she tested positive for Covid, raising questions about the efficacy of the Biden administration’s success in mitigating the pandemic and eyebrows on the Hill for the convenient timing of her Covid test.
Under Egorin, HHS “missed numerous production deadlines without explanation,” “misled transcribed interview efforts” and “unnecessarily redacted the names of non-governmental employees and foreign nationals,” the committee’s Republicans said.
The committee’s chair, Ohio’s Brad Wenstrup, announced last week that this will be his final term, putting extra pressure on the committee to cement his legacy.
While no Democratic elected officials showed up to the Daszak grilling, it was a highly sought-after affair with Republicans; some who aren’t even on the committee, like Griffith, showed up.
While Republicans across the House are eager to laud the Wenstrup-led committee, the Democrats’ dereliction was chalked up to how they have also tried to move on from conducting any meaningful oversight of the Afghanistan imbroglio. “Covid-19 was the Afghanistan withdrawal of the public health bureaucracy,” a GOP Hill staffer noted. Democrats closed your business, shut your school and masked your two-year-old — so it’s no wonder they want to turn the page on everything they did.”