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Press Release Published: May 3, 2024

Hearing Wrap Up: EcoHealth Alliance Should be Criminally Investigated, Formally Debarred

WASHINGTON — The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing titled “A Hearing with the President of EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Peter Daszak” to examine EcoHealth Alliance’s (EcoHealth) use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund dangerous gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). This hearing also served to hold Dr. Daszak publicly accountable for discrepancies between his closed-door transcribed interview and available evidence. Prior to the hearing, the Select Subcommittee released a new, interim report which revealed that Dr. Daszak repeatedly violated the terms of the NIH grant awarded to EcoHealth. The report recommended the formal debarment of and a criminal investigation into EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak. During the hearing, members questioned Dr. Daszak about the findings of this report, pressed him to explain EcoHealth’s relationship with the WIV, and scrutinized his abuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund dangerous, potentially pandemic-causing research. Staff from both the majority and the minority grilled Daszak on his less than forthcoming testimony to Congress and described evidence showing EcoHealth “absolutely” facilitated “gain-of-function” research at the WIV on the American taxpayer’s dime. 

Read the Select Subcommittee’s interim staff report titled “An Evaluation of the Evidence Surrounding EcoHealth Alliance, Inc.’s Research Activitieshere.

Key Hearing Takeaways

Dr. Daszak is not a faithful steward of U.S. taxpayer dollars and should never again receive funding from the federal government.

  • Members of both the majority and the minority agree that EcoHealth has not been transparent with the American people.

Dr. Daszak failed to defend his public position that EcoHealth has never facilitated gain-of-function research at the WIV.

  • The Select Subcommittee’s staff report revealed that research facilitated by EcoHealth — with  U.S. tax dollars —was conducted at the WIV and qualified as gain-of-function research.
  • When Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Ny.) confronted Dr. Daszak with the broadly understood definition of gain-of-function as “a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new and enhanced activity to that agent,” he played semantics with the definition and falsely denied that EcoHealth has ever conducted this type of research.

Dr. Daszak admitted that “of course” the WIV could have hidden coronavirus samples and that he does “not know” if the WIV has the ability to genetically modify viruses without leaving a trace.

  • However, he curiously maintains the posture that COVID-19 originated in nature and not from the WIV.

Dr. Daszak was unable to reconcile major discrepancies between his closed-door testimony and evidence reviewed by the Select Subcommittee.

  • During his transcribed interview in November 2023, Dr. Daszak told the Select Subcommittee that EcoHealth intended to conduct research for his highly controversial DEFUSE proposal — which some believe created a blueprint for COVID-19 — in the United States, not at the WIV. This statement was directly contradicted by evidence reviewed and presented by the Select Subcommittee
  • Dr. Daszak was unable to clarify this discrepancy to Members and staff during his testimony, leading the Select Subcommittee to believe Dr. Daszak may have been dishonest with Congress.

Dr. Daszak’s testimony confirmed he repeatedly misled the U.S. government by downplaying his relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • When NIH reinstated Dr. Daszak’s grant in 2023, it was under the impression that EcoHealth Alliance was no longer working with the WIV.
  • During his testimony, Dr. Daszak revealed that the WIV is still in possession of coronavirus samples that may belong to the U.S. government stating, “To the last of my knowledge, they were in the freezers in Wuhan — over 15,000 of them.”

The Select Subcommittee will take further steps to address Dr. Daszak’s contempt for the American people.

Member Highlights

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), D.P.M, pressed Dr. Daszak on why he repeatedly downplayed EcoHealth’s relationship with the WIV in order to secure a federal grant.

Chairman Wenstrup: “Third comment is up on the screen and this time it was written by Dr. Baric and says ‘In the U.S., these recombinant SARS coronaviruses are studied under BSL-3, not BSL-2, and China might be growing these viruses under BSL-2. U.S. researchers will likely freak out.’ Were you proposing to do the work, in DEFUSE, at BSL-2?

Dr. Daszak: “No.”

Chairman Wenstrup: “In fact, you write in the proposal that the choice of BSL-2 is more ‘cost effective.’ Dr. Baric testified that he does this work at BSL-3 and in fact encouraged you to do the same. What’s more important to you, biosafety or cost?

Dr. Daszak: “Well, EcoHealth Alliance maintains the appropriate biosafety levels for our research…This is simply a draft proposal where one group is suggesting one thing, another is suggesting another. The final proposal is what matters. And I want to remind the Committee that this proposal was not funded. The work was never done. It is utterly irrelevant to the origins of COVID.

Chairman Wenstrup: “Well, it’s not irrelevant, Dr. Daszak. It’s very relevant. And, you know, you just stated that China, those are China’s standards. So you’re okay with China’s standards as opposed to the U.S. standards. And it does matter whether it’s a two BSL-2 or BSL-3 as Dr. Baric pointed out. And it also is important to understand that you intentionally downplayed the role of China. Between your actions to DARPA and those with NIH, you have failed to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. And so our recommendation that you do not receive any more.

Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) grilled Dr. Daszak on his relationship with the intelligence community — specifically pressing him on his communications about EcoHealth’s ties to the WIV and the Chinese Communist Party.

Chairman Comer: “Dr. Daszak, the U.S. intelligence community has been investigating the origins of COVID 19. During that investigation, were you ever contacted by any intelligence agencies?

Dr. Daszak: “Yes.”

Chairman Comer: “Which ones?

Dr. Daszak: “The CIA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Chairman Comer: “Have you ever been an informant for any U.S. intelligence agency?

Dr. Daszak: “Not to my knowledge. Certainly, when they’ve asked me questions, I’ve provided answers as any citizen of the U.S. would.

Chairman Comer: “What types of questions would they…did they ask you questions before the COVID outbreak?

Dr. Daszak: “I’ve spoken with the FBI before the COVID outbreak, of course.

Chairman Comer: “So you had communications with the intelligence community before the outbreak of COVID.

Dr. Daszak: “The FBI was a member of the Forum on Microbial Threats, which I’m the chair of. So, yes, only in that context.”

Chairman Comer: “What types of conversations did you talk about prior to the outbreak of COVID?

Dr. Daszak: “Talk about emerging disease threats and what information we have about where on the planet the next virus is likely to emerge, certainly talked about China and the threats of coronaviruses.

Chairman Comer: “So the U.S. intelligence agency was interested because you had conversations with them prior to COVID and what type of activity was taking place in the Wuhan lab.”

Dr. Daszak: “Yeah and I believe they’ve asked many other scientists too.

Chairman Comer: “Do you find it troubling that, by all accounts from your testimony, the intelligence community suspected something fishy was going on at the Wuhan lab? Despite that, they still funded research with American taxpayer dollars at the Wuhan lab.”

Dr. Daszak: “Well, I don’t know that the intelligence community funded research there.

Chairman Comer: “The government did. And the intelligence community is part of the government.

Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) revealed disturbing discrepancies between Dr. Daszak’s transcribed interview in November of 2023, the evidence uncovered by the Select Subcommittee during it’s years-long investigation, and his public testimony this week.

Rep. Griffith: “And if that were true, if that were true, Dr. Daszak, why didn’t you tell me that in November of last year. It’s been less than six months. I gave you the opportunity to say that there was a change in your initial drafts and later drafts…You didn’t say, well, we did some additional research and we made a change on the number of times that a bat virus might spill over into the population in Southeast Asia or South China. You didn’t give me that. I gave you the chance. I didn’t ask it as… I was looking for facts. I wasn’t trying to cross-examine you at that time, and yet you didn’t tell me the truth. And today you come up with a new theory as to why that might have happened. But that’s not what you gave me in November. Isn’t that true? You didn’t give me that in November. Isn’t that true? Yes or no?

Dr. Daszak: “My theory is that…

Rep. Griffith: “Yes or no, that you told me something wrong.”

Dr. Daszak: “My theory has a substantial advantage over yours in that it’s…

Rep. Griffith: “No, my theory is you didn’t tell me the truth. You’re now coming up with a theory as to why your reports in the leaked 2020 report and your later 2021 report are different. I’m asserting and I’m asking you, you told me something wrong in November…Isn’t that true?

Dr. Daszak: “I believe I’m seeing this for the first time. You never showed this to me on the record.”

Rep. Griffith: “I asked you specifically if there would be any substantial or significant changes from what you would have had. You said you tried to send the report in earlier ,that there was something wrong with the site and so forth. And I said, but that report that was due in September, when you tried to send it in September of 2019, were there any substantial differences? You said that there weren’t, that they would be substantially the same…

Dr. Daszak: “And that is still correct.

Rep. Griffith: “And you don’t think this is a significant change?

Dr. Daszak: “No.”

Rep. Griffith: “Wow. You know what? I practiced in the criminal courts for many, many years. And I will just tell you, if you were my client. I would tell you that that dog won’t hunt. And the Judge ain’t going to believe that. I yield back.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) elicited a concession from Dr. Daszak that the U.S. State Department is responsible for allowing EcoHealth to conduct gain-of-function research at labs tied to the Chinese Community Party —including the WIV.

Rep. Lesko: “I think you said earlier is that you still don’t know that there is Chinese military presence or collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Is that what you said?

Dr. Daszak: “No, what I said was that I have no knowledge of any military activity in the Wuhan lab.”

Rep. Lesko: “And how do you know that? Because the State Department, this is what the U.S. State Department said in 2021 in a fact sheet. It says ‘secrecy and nondisclosure are standard practice for Beijing. For many years, the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated despite its clear obligation under the Biological Weapons Convention. Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with the Chinese military.’ And this was in 2021. So you just deny what the State Department says, that this is not happening.”

Dr. Daszak: “Something doesn’t add up. I completely agree because it’s the same State Department that reviews our proposals to NIH and allows us to work with that lab. If the State Department considers that to be a military lab, surely they would have said no the WIV is not appropriate for doing this research. However, they reviewed it and said yes. It is appropriate and allowed. I don’t have access to what the State Department reviews and knows. But something doesn’t add up there because it is them that gave us the go ahead to work with WIV.

Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) pushed Dr. Daszak to explain why he funds research in adversarial countries — including China — that have repeatedly conducted highly-dangerous experiments at inadequate biosafety levels and have faced accusations of deleting sequences and samples that may have been paid for by the U.S. government.

Rep. Cloud: “Knowing what you know now, do you regret working with the lab in Wuhan?

Dr. Daszak: “Look, our mission is to prevent pandemics.”

Rep. Cloud: “Knowing what you know now, do you regret working with them? Not debating what you knew then.”

Dr. Daszak: “We don’t do this because we want to go and work in foreign countries and risk our lives. Pandemics emerge there. If we can stop them there, we stop them getting here. That’s what we do. It’s written into our mission.”

Rep. Cloud: “But we have evidence that the Wuhan lab destroyed data. Does that concern you at all?

Dr. Daszak: “Yes. Any lab that destroys data concerns me.”

Rep. Cloud: “Knowing what you know now, do you regret working with the Wuhan lab? Do you think working with labs that destroy data is sound?

Dr. Daszak: “I have no choice. We work in countries where diseases emerge, whether they’re our allies or our competitors.”

Rep. Cloud: “One of the troubling things for us, when we go home, because we’re representing the taxpayers, who you know, most of them are not virologists or scientists, but they’re going we’re paying money to fund research in a country that’s in unrestricted warfare against us, that destroys evidence. And then you still are like no we should continue working with them.”

Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), M.D., exposed Dr. Daszak’s inaccurate testimony that he only communicated with Dr. Fauci’s senior advisor — Dr. David Morens — for personal reasons via Dr. Morens’s personal Gmail. The Select Subcommittee is in possession of emails proving Dr. Daszak and Dr. Morens discussed both EcoHealth and NIH official business on Gmail in violation of federal record transparency and retention laws.

Rep. McCormick: “Did you have any conversations about your grant reinstatement with Dr. David Morens, the senior advisor to Dr. Fauci?

Dr. Daszak: “I don’t know.

Rep. McCormick: “You don’t know if you had a discussion?

Dr. Daszak: “I don’t know. Probably. I don’t know. I’d have to check my records.

Rep. McCormick: “Did Dr. Morens ever give you any advice on how to reinstate your federal funding?

Dr. Daszak: “Oh, yeah. I mean, I asked everybody who had any knowledge about the way NIH works on any possible strategy.

Rep. McCormick: “Were you aware that Dr. David Morens was communicating with you on his personal Gmail account to avoid FOIA and public accountability?

Dr. Daszak: “I was aware that he was communicating with me on his personal Gmail account. Sometimes, yes, for personal matters.

Rep. McCormick: “Personal matter about reinstating a public grant?

Dr. Daszak: “Well, it’s not his job to reinstate it. This is me asking his advice as a friend and colleague.”

Rep. McCormick: “Do you find it problematic a senior adviser of Dr. Fauci, the head of NIAID, was communicating with you on Gmail rather than in official capacity about an official grant?

Dr. Daszak: “Well, when I talk to him by email about personal and security issues and political security issues.”

Rep. McCormick: “When your grant was officially terminated in April of 2020, do you think that Dr. Morens undermined NIAID’s decision by advising you on how to get it reinstated?

Dr. Daszak: “Well, if that were true, then everybody else at NIH who advised me on how to get it reinstated, including the official reinstatement procedure, would also have undermined.”