‘You’re Going To Be Haunted By Your Testimony’: Bipartisan Lawmakers Grill Top Fauci Aid Over FOIA Evasion

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Lawmakers grilled Dr. David Morens, a Senior Advisor to Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), over his apparent attempts to circumvent FOIA requests during a Wednesday testimony to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Committee Chair Republican Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup opened the hearing by citing e-mails Morens wrote in 2021 where he appeared to tout his use of backdoor channels to communicate with Fauci.

“On April 21, 2021, you wrote ‘I can either send stuff to Tony [Fauci] on his private e-mail or hand it to him at work or at his house,'” Wenstrup read. “On May 13, 2021, you wrote that you connected a reporter to Dr. Fauci via your ‘secret backchannel.’ What backchannel did you have for Dr. Fauci?”

Morens brushed off the e-mails, claiming they were just jokes. “All these terms like secret backchannel and the other one you mentioned were just jokes. Jokes that I made in dealing with Peter [Daszak] because he was under death threats and very depressed,” Morens replied.

“There was no backchannel,” he continued. “The backchannel was, uh, the backchannel to Tony was the same one that applies to everybody.”

Lawmakers pressed him on his use of a personal e-mail account to conduct official business with Fauci and Dr. Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance.

Wenstrup read an e-mail Morens wrote to Daszak in 2021 that said, “Peter I just got news that a FOIA picked up an e-mail I sent you saying Tony commented that he was braindead. I deleted that e-mail, but I now learned that every e-mail I ever got since 1998 is captured and will be turned over whether or not instantly deleted.”

After reading another e-mail sent to both Daszak and Fauci in which Morens claimed he deleted all e-mails to Daszak related to Covid origins, Wenstrup asked him “Dr. Morens, did you ever delete or attempt to delete a federal record?”

“Based on my understanding of what a federal record was, I truly don’t think I’ve ever seen a federal record in 26 years of being at NIH,” Morens, who claimed he once worked at the National Archives, answered.

He then went on to describe advice he received from Margaret Moore, an employee at NIH who he described as the “FOIA lady” and claimed she “hated FOIAs” in a 2021 e-mail.

New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who accused Morens of blurring professional lines by sharing nonpublic information with his personal friend Daszak, read another e-mail: “On August 27, 2020, after NIH awarded a $7.5 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, you wrote to him and you asked ‘Do I get a kickback? Too much fucking money. Do you deserve it all? Let’s discuss.’ Would you like to explain?”

Morens again explained it as a joke, claiming “That’s typical black humor between people like Peter and me and other folks who show up in this e-mails.”

Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer then pressed Morens over e-mails where he appeared to tout his FOIA circumvention.

“I learned from our FOIA lady here how to make e-mails disappear after I’m FOIA’d but before the search starts so I think we’re all safe. Plus I deleted most of those earlier e-mails after sending them to GMail,” Morens wrote.

In another e-mail, Comer read, Morens wrote “We’re all smart enough to know to never have smoking guns and we wouldn’t put them in e-mails and if we found them we would delete them.”

Another committee member, Maryland Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation. “If this were not laughable it would be laughable,” he joked. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: House COVID Committee Slaps Fauci Lieutenant With Subpoena After ‘Intentional’ Delays)

“Mr. Morens this is a tale out of some movie … you seem to be here, there and everywhere,” Mfume excoriated Morens.

“Sir, I think you’re going to be haunted by your testimony today,” Mfume concluded.

Near the end of the nearly two-hour-long hearing, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene hit Morens with a zinger, asking him “Who is your FOIA lady, is it Hilary Clinton?” which drew a wry smile from Morens.

Morens is the latest official potentially involved in the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic to testify to the subcommittee. Dr. Peter Daszak testified to the committee for three and a half hours May 1. Dr. Anthony Fauci is set to appear in front of the committee June 3 for his first public testimony since retiring.