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Press Release Published: May 23, 2024

Hearing Wrap Up: Dr. Fauci’s Top Advisor Held Accountable for COVID-19 Federal Records Violations, Undermining NIH Operations

WASHINGTON — The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing titled “A Hearing with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Senior Scientific Advisor, Dr. David Morens.” Evidence obtained by the Select Subcommittee prior to the hearing showed that Dr. Morens — a former top advisor to Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) — deliberately obstructed the Select Subcommittee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 to protect Dr. Fauci, unlawfully deleted federal COVID-19 records, and shared nonpublic information about National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant processes with his “best-friend” EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak. Dr. Morens’s testimony confirmed these discoveries and proved that he clearly believes the laws of the federal government do not apply to him. Members used Dr. Morens’s own emails as evidence of his misconduct and pressed Dr. Morens to explain why he displayed such contempt for the American people while serving as a senior official at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Morens admitted to using his personal email account to conduct official business, feigned ignorance about the NIH’s record retention policy, and offered half-hearted apologies for his self-admitted misogynistic comments. Both majority and minority members held Dr. Morens accountable for his failure to serve the American people with the honesty, respect, and integrity that they deserve from public health officials.

Key Hearing Takeaways

  • Dr. Fauci’s Senior Scientific Advisor — Dr. David Morens — was held publicly accountable for undermining the operations of the U.S. government, likely lying to Congress on multiple occasions, deleting federal COVID-19 records, and using his personal email account to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
  • Dr. Morens repeatedly chalked up his federal records violations, flagrant misconduct, and nefarious behavior to “dark humor” and “jokes.” Both Members of the majority and the minority annihilated these excuses and called out Dr. Morens for his obvious attempts to protect his reputation by deflecting responsibility.
  • Dr. Morens paraded his close relationship with the recently suspended and soon-to-be debarred President of EcoHealth Alliance Inc. Dr. Peter Daszak. Evidence revealed in a recent Select Subcommittee report shows that Dr. Morens repeatedly undermined NIH operations by backchanneling confidential information to Dr. Daszak.
  • Dr. Morens admitted to intentionally avoiding FOIA by using his personal email accounts to discuss official government business. He went so far as to say “I shouldn’t have done that. That’s wrong.”
  • The Select Subcommittee will continue its efforts to hold Dr. Morens accountable. Chairman Wenstrup is considering next steps and legal repercussions for Dr. Morens’s misconduct while at NIH and his dishonest while before Congress.

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), D.P.M, called out Dr. Morens’s ignorance and grilled him for seemingly false testimony related to his deletion of federal COVID-19 records.

Chairman Wenstrup: “I have nonofficial emails on a separate phone that are fused, or I can separate them, but not my official ones. And that doesn’t account for telling people that you’re doing official business with that they should contact you on your Gmail.

Dr. Morens: “That’s true.

Chairman Wenstrup: “And especially to avoid FOIA and to be able to potentially delete things you don’t want in The New York Times, which was your comment. On January 18 [2024], you testified ‘no’ when asked if you ever deleted anything from your official account that could be considered a federal record. Dr. Morens, are you aware that the destruction or attempted destruction of federal records carries a potential punishment of both imprisonment and a fine?

Dr. Morens: “I was not aware of that, and I was not aware that anything I deleted like emails was a federal record because we have federal records training periodically and the training, you know, that I recall we received, defined a federal record in a very different way than you may be thinking of it. None of it defined it as an email.

Chairman Wenstrup: “Well, that may be something to look into, is what your training looks like when it comes to federal records, because it’s far different from mine.

Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) revealed Dr. Fauci’s intimate knowledge of and respect for the recently suspended and soon-to-be debarred EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak. Chairman Comer also solicited an admission from Dr. Morens that he deletes “a lot” of emails that could be classified as federal records.

Chairman Comer: “On January 18 [2024], you testified that you did not have any conversations with Dr. Fauci regarding EcoHealth. On October 25, 2021, you wrote ‘Peter, from Tony’s numerous recent comments to me, they’re trying to protect you.’ You meaning EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak. Dr. Morens, did you ever have any conversations with Dr. Fauci regarding EcoHealth.”

Dr. Morens: “Well the ones you just mentioned, I don’t have any recollection of that.”

Chairman Comer: “No recollection?

Dr. Morens: “No recollection, no…what I do remember is one time in a face-to-face meeting. He referred or alluded to some stuff that was in the press. I don’t think he even said what it was. But I assumed it was about Peter’s grants and press reports about it and the ending of the grant. And I said to him, sort of out of the blue, guessing what he was really thinking, I said to him, Tony I know you would have never been involved in getting rid of that grant. He didn’t respond. He just sort of looked at me.

Chairman Comer: “So Dr. Fauci was always a big defender of EcoHealth and their right to receive federal funding.”

Dr. Morens: “…I think he had great respect for them. And when the grant problems came about, I think he was troubled by it….At some point, somebody, it may not have been Tony, but it might have been Hugh Auchincloss, somebody said to me ‘Peter is his own worst enemy because he made some mistakes on that grant.’

Chairman Comer: “I would say that’s a factual statement.”

Chairman Comer: “Did you ever delete any official records?

Dr. Morens: “…we are at the issue of defining what’s a federal record. I deleted a lot of emails. I do it every day.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), M.D., blasted Dr. Morens for his misogynistic comments about female public health leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Select Subcommittee’s recent staff report revealed email evidence of Dr. Morens engaging in inappropriate and disrespectful behavior that is unbecoming of U.S. Government official.

Rep. Miller-Meeks: “Why in 2021, I would have expected it when I was in medical school in 1982, but why in 2021… that you would have commented in an email. ‘Dr. Fauci got Rochelle Walensky her job as CDC Director by lobbying for her to Ron Klain. Well, she does wear a skirt. I poured a little cold water on her, but he was undeterred in thinking that she is the cat’s pajama. So let me just say, am I the cat’s pajama?

Dr. Morens: “I uh…

Rep. Miller-Meeks: “Do you know how many women sit on this Subcommittee? Do you know what it takes for any of these women to get elected to Congress? Because I find your comments to be disgusting. You had an illustrious career and an amazing track to get to where you are. You’re trusted with one of the highest positions in government to combat public health crises and instead of doing your job, you’re too busy worrying about avoiding FOIAs and challenging someone’s position because they happen to wear a skirt. The American people deserve a whole lot better in their public servants. We don’t need to worry about your trying to avoid FOIAs or what the quality of your mattress is, quite frankly, sir. You should be ashamed of your character and embarrassed. I’m glad that you are. And you should, in fact, apologize to this subcommittee, to Congress, and to our nation.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) pressed Dr. Morens towards an admission of guilt that he “shouldn’t have done that” and “that’s wrong” when asked about his use of personal email to undermine the operations of the U.S. Government.

Rep. Malliotakis: “It is government business if you are advising him [Dr. Peter Daszak], you’re advocating on his behalf, you’re editing things, letters that he wanted to send to NIH. You did all that on personal e-mail, correct?

Dr. Morens: “…I shouldn’t have done that. That’s wrong.

Rep. Malliotakis: “It is wrong and that is why we’re asking the question because you were using it for official business. And that’s what we’re trying to understand. Why were you trying to hide this from members of Congress, from the government, from the public?

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) elicited a wholly indefensible and incoherent answer from Dr. Morens as to why he broke federal record keeping laws. Dr. Morens claimed that he did not believe he was breaking FOIA laws, so therefore, he could not have broken the law.

Rep. Lesko: “Sir, I believe you have lied here today to us, to Congress. When you say, oh, I didn’t know this, I didn’t intentionally use my Gmail. Are you kidding me? Dr. Morens, do you want to change your testimony?

Dr. Morens: “No, I don’t… the context is that this Gmail communication thing was set up purely to deal with personal things that were not government business.

Rep. Lesko: “With all due respect, how can you say that when you clearly, in all these emails, were intentionally avoiding FOIA? You said it in your own words, sir.”

Dr. Morens: “Let’s talk about what you mean by intentionally avoiding FOIA. I don’t consider that telling them ‘don’t send me things because they could get FOIA’d as intentionally avoiding FOIA…

Rep. Lesko: “Did you use, in most of these emails, your official signature? It said David M Morens, O.D., NIAID, NIH. These were official.

Dr. Morens: “Well…”

Rep. Lesko: “And you forwarded from your NIH email to your personal email, and you said it right in your email.”

Dr. Morens: “…I realized if a Gmail or an NIH email came to me and I replied to it, for some reason, there was a default where the signature I had on Gmail, which said David Morens of Bethesda, Maryland or something didn’t go out. But the NIH email went out. I don’t know how that happened. I didn’t do it consciously.”

Rep. Lesko: “I’m sorry. I just don’t believe you.

Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), M.D., revealed conflicting statements that prove Dr. David Morens either lied to the Select Subcommittee during his public hearing or during his transcribed interview about deleting federal records.

Rep. McCormick: “We have statements concerning the NIH, NIAID FOIA officer instruction on how to avoid documents production through intentional misspellings of keywords to avoid triggering hits on automated search queries in response to FOIA requests and congressional oversight inquiries. That you had these secret backchannel ways to get a hold of Fauci that you were trying to avoid queries by misspellings and other things. That’s what we have come to the conclusion on. Do you deny that?

Dr. Morens: “…The secret backchannel, joking terminology, to my knowledge, was never about FOIAs.”

Rep. McCormick: “So you’re going to joke about backchannels to Fauci and about misspellings on queries. That’s a joke. Not very funny to me.”

Dr. Morens: “…I had no backchannel. You know, I could walk into Tony’s office and talk to him anytime I wanted. There’s no need to have a backchannel. I had face to face meetings with him all the time.

Rep. McCormick: “So you deny it?

Dr. Morens: “I guess I do.

Rep. McCormick: “Dr. Morens, we have your previous statement on FOIA documents here. Chairman, I request unanimous consent to submit these documents for the record. Based on your answer, you either lied to Congress during your transcribed interview or you are lying here today.”