EcoHealth Alliance email release confirms Fauci aide used private account to discuss COVID

Private research organization EcoHealth Alliance voluntarily released private emails on Friday confirming that the top aide to then-National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci used his personal Gmail account to conduct business regarding the origins of COVID-19.

The publication of the emails comes following a letter sent from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to former National Institutes of Health employee Gerald Keusch regarding several of his email exchanges with Fauci’s adviser David Morens and EcoHealth President Peter Daszak.

The publication of the emails is notable because it corroborates allegations by congressional Republicans that leading NIAID officials may have violated federal records statutes during the early stages of the pandemic. Morens had repeatedly denied accusations that he forwarded government records to his personal email address to circumvent Freedom of Information Act requests and other oversight.

An email published by EcoHealth dated April 26, 2020, and timestamped at 3:32 p.m. from Daszak to Morens highlights that he will “communicate with [Morens] via gmail from now on,” confirming that Morens requested to discuss COVID-19 on nongovernment platforms only.

“I understand exactly what you’re saying in your email, I agree, and we’ll follow this line exactly,” Daszak also told Morens.

EcoHealth did not publish the email sent from Morens to Daszak that prompted this response.

Morens has been under investigation by the subcommittee and the National Archives and Records Administration since June following the release of emails dated September 2021 from Morens’s NIH account encouraging colleagues not to use government addresses to circumvent oversight of the agency. 

Morens also wrote in 2021 that he would “delete anything [he doesn’t] want to see in the New York Times” from his government accounts. 

The subcommittee confirmed for the Washington Examiner on Thursday that they did not have the text of the emails between Morens, Keusch, and Daszak. The subcommittee did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment by the time of publication. 

EcoHealth, a nonprofit organization that conducts virus research with the goal of preventing pandemics, has been under significant scrutiny since the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, especially for its work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

The emails published by EcoHealth document that the grant “Understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence” was briefly terminated by the NIH due to biosecurity concerns and that Daszak was working with Morens and Keusch to reinstate the project.

“Contrary to the news reports, they show clearly that EcoHealth Alliance was appropriately communicating with senior staff at the NIH, or who formerly worked at NIH, to try to identify ways to reinstate a grant that had been terminated unexpectedly and arbitrarily, then suspended with onerous conditions,” the spokesperson for EcoHealth wrote in a press release accompanying the emails. 

Daszak wrote to Morens and Keusch in the April 2020 email stream that the heightened public scrutiny of his organization was “a brutally stressful issue on just about every level.”

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“We are being targeted by extremists, supported by the President [Donald Trump], who is shockingly ignorant and unconcerned about the damage his actions have to people’s lives and our own US National Security,” Daszak wrote.

Daszak is scheduled to testify in a public hearing before the subcommittee on May 1. 

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