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Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci testifies during a hearing before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of House Appropriations Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. — Alex Wong/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) — Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing intense scrutiny from House Republicans at a hearing on Monday as lawmakers continue to scrutinize his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and examine theories of the origin of the virus.

Fauci previously proclaimed that he has “nothing to hide” and is coming before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic voluntarily. It marks the first time he’s publicly testified since he left the federal government at the end of 2022 after five decades of service.

Fauci’s appearance on Capitol Hill comes amid a contentious election cycle, with Republicans continuing to hammer him on his response to the virus — everything from mask mandates to vaccine guidelines and origin possibilities.

“Americans were aggressively bullied, shamed and silenced for merely questioning or debating issues such as social distancing, masks, vaccines or the origins of COVID,” chairman Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, said as the hearing kicked off. Wenstrup, who said he was seeking accountability in this hearing, accused Fauci of overseeing “one of the most invasive regimes of domestic policy the U.S. has ever seen.”

Fauci addressed those issues, and Republican attacks, in his opening statement, calling certain matters “seriously distorted.”

Fauci forcefully denied GOP accusations that he meddled in research about the pandemic’s origins, including claims that he tried to sway scientists away from concluding the virus came from a lab.

“The accusation being circulated that I influenced the scientists to change their minds by bribing them with millions of dollars in grant money is absolutely false, and simply preposterous,” he said.

“The second issue is a false accusation that I tried to cover up the possibility that the virus originated from a lab. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite,” he added, proceeding to read an email in which he encouraged scientists to report their data to authorities.

Democrats, led by ranking member Raul Ruiz, sought to focus on moving forward — and accused Republicans of using Fauci as a scapegoat for mistakes made during the early days of the pandemic by former President Donald Trump.

“After 15 months, the select subcommittee does not possess a shred of evidence to substantiate these extreme allegations Republicans have levied against Dr. Fauci for nearly four years,” Ruiz said.

Tensions boiled over when Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Fauci’s most passionate detractors, said his license should be revoked and he should be imprisoned. She was stopped by chair Rep. Wenstrup, a fellow Republican, because of a lack of decorum. Democrats defended Fauci in the aftermath, with Rep. Robert Garcia calling Greene’s comments “completely irresponsible.”

The latest attack on Fauci comes from Republicans on the subcommittee who cite “new evidence” they say warrants further scrutiny: an email exchange between a former Fauci senior adviser and an executive of a virus research organization where the adviser claims Fauci’s private Gmail account could be utilized to evade Freedom of Information Act and future public scrutiny. Ahead of the hearing, Republicans requested access to Fauci’s personal email account and cellphone records.

Fauci denied suggestions he used his private email, and both denounced and distanced himself from the adviser’s actions.

“Let me state for the record that to the best of my knowledge I have never conducted official business via my personal email,” Fauci said.

Dr. David Morens, the Fauci aide, advised EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak that Fauci may accept printed copies of documents if Daszak didn’t want them tracked for the public record — although it’s not clear if Fauci ever had any involvement.

Records show that Morens himself used his private Gmail account to shield information from FOIA’s reach, including to send Daszak official government documents and a heads-up about information that would become public through a FOIA request pertaining to EcoHealth Alliance grant materials and COVID-19 research.

EcoHealth Alliance is a U.S.-based organization — described as a “virus-hunting group” — that conducts research and outreach programs and global health, conservation and international development, according to its website.

Republicans say the alliance facilitated gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China, without proper oversight; willingly violated multiple requirements of its multi-million dollar National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant; and, apparently, made false statements to the NIH.

The House select subcommittee released a report alleging wrongdoing there and the formal debarment of EcoHealth and Daszak. Health and Human Services has subsequently suspended U.S. funding to the organization, which totaled about $2.6 million last year.

Morens testified behind closed doors for transcribed interviews before the subcommittee on Jan 18., and later produced an additional 30,000 pages of documents pursuant to a subpoena before testifying publicly on May 22.

Considering Morens was a close adviser to Fauci, Republicans on the subcommittee expressed concern that Fauci had knowledge of his conduct and questioned whether Fauci potentially engaged in any misconduct himself.

Fauci told lawmakers on Monday he “knew nothing” of Morens’ actions with Daszak or EcoHealth, and asserted Morens was not “an adviser to me on institute policy or other substantive issues.”

Fauci, 83, served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, serving as a scientific check to Trump during the pandemic and later as President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor before retiring in 2022.

Fauci previously spoke out about the death threats he received due to his outsized and public role from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, he said those threats continue and became emotional while answering questions about the impact on his family.

“It is very troublesome to me. It is much more troublesome because they’ve involved my wife and my three daughters,” he said, his voice beginning to waver.

“At this moment, how do you feel?” pushed Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell.

“Terrible,” Fauci replied.

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