Fauci is leaving, but Comer and Paul say they’re coming after him

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul at July 2021 hearing

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s announcement that he will retire from the federal government at year’s end prompted two members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation to reiterate that they plan to put him under oath about the origins of Covid-19, reports David Catanese of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Sen. Rand Paul, one of Fauci’s leading critics in Congress, hopes to chair the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and First District Rep. James Comer is likely to chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on which he is the ranking Republican. The GOP is more likely to gain control of the House, so “Comer’s path to a congressional gavel looks more likely,” Catanese writes.

Rep. James Comer

Comer told Paducah’s WPSD-TV Wednesday, “I think it’ll be the most high-profile committee in Congress next year.”

Paul solicited $22 campaign contributions to join his “Fauci retirement club” and formally asked the National Institutes of Health, where Fauci works, to retain Fauci’s documents for review, Catanese reports. Fauci responded on Fox News that he welcomed “legitimate, dignified oversight.”

Bianca Keaton, campaign manager Charles Booker, for Paul’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 election, “said Booker believes in oversight but panned Paul’s motives,” Catanese reports. Keaton said Paul is trying to “rile up his shrinking base, sow confusion and boost his fundraising another failed presidential run.

Paul has said he believes the novel coronavirus was accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory, and treats it as a fact, tweeting that “He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak.” Catanese points out, “While the main scientific consensus is that the virus originated from a wet seafood market – moving from infected animals to humans – some scientists continue to probe the theory of a lab leak. Fauci said this week he’s always maintained he’s kept ‘an open mind … as to the origin’.”

Paul and Fauci have crossed swords several times. In “Correcting Misinformation about Dr. Fauci,” D’Angelo Gore of FactCheck.org writes:

Paul accused Fauci of lying when Fauci said in a May 2021 Senate hearing that “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” But there’s no evidence that Fauci lied to Congress, as Paul asserted in a July 20, 2021, hearing, about funding gain-of-function research — which the U.S. government generally defined in 2014 as aiming to “increase the ability of infectious agents to cause disease by enhancing its pathogenicity or by increasing its transmissibility.” Fauci has said that the research that was funded “was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function,” and the NIH has said the same. The issue is that scientists have differing opinions on what counts as gain-of-function research. Paul has posited that Fauci, among others, “could be culpable for the entire pandemic” if the SARS-CoV-2 virus leaked from a Wuhan lab that was conducting gain-of-function research. But there is no proof of a lab leak, and there is evidence that the bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant could not have caused the pandemic.
Fauci has not testified before any House committee. “Comer has accused the NIH and Fauci of redacting critical information in emails and obstructing any investigation into the origins of Covid-19,” Catanese reports.
Comer told Laura Ingraham of Fox News that he would ask Fauci, “Why didn’t you tell the Trump administration early on and why didn’t you tell the American people early on that even your closest advisers suggested that this virus originated in the Wuhan lab?” He cited emails from January and February 2020, when there was much uncertainty about the source of the virus.

“Jimmy Ausbrooks, Comer’s Democratic challenger this year, said he would support hearings to analyze the health crisis that ravaged the country,” Catanese writes, quoting him: “If it is a deliberate attempt to discredit [Fauci], I would see no relevance in the hearings and it would be a waste of taxpayer money. I believe with the level of knowledge that citizens and government leadership had, Dr. Fauci did his job.”
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