The referral is based on an email from February 2020 in which Fauci discussed a call with British medical researcher Jeremy Farrar. During the call, Fauci and other scientists expressed concern about mutations in the virus that seemed unlikely to have occurred naturally in bats. Fauci also mentioned suspicions that the mutations were intentionally inserted, citing the fact that scientists in Wuhan University had been conducting gain-of-function experiments on bat viruses.
This revelation contradicts Fauci's previous statements denying any funding of gain-of-function research. Senator Paul, who has been critical of Fauci's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, called Fauci's denial a "lie" and sent the criminal referral to the DOJ. In July 2021, during a heated exchange with Fauci, Paul reminded him that lying to Congress is a federal crime.
Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and medical adviser to the president, vehemently denied lying to Congress and insisted that the NIH did not fund gain-of-function research. However, Paul cited a journal article that credited the NIH and described the creation of new viruses through the manipulation of bat coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab. These lab-created viruses were shown to replicate in humans, suggesting gain-of-function research.
Fauci argued that the paper in question had been reviewed by qualified staff and was not considered gain-of-function research. However, Paul read from the NIH's own definition of gain of function, which states that increasing the transmissibility of viruses among mammals qualifies as gain-of-function research. Paul accused Fauci of trying to obscure responsibility for the global pandemic and the millions of deaths it has caused.
The controversy surrounding the origins of the COVID-19 virus and the role of gain-of-function research has been a subject of intense debate. Critics argue that the Wuhan lab's research may have contributed to the emergence of the virus, while others maintain that the virus likely originated naturally. The issue has become highly politicized, with conservatives like Senator Paul questioning the actions of Fauci and the NIH.
As the investigation into the origins of the virus continues, Senator Paul's criminal referral adds another layer of scrutiny to Fauci's role in the pandemic response. The DOJ will now determine whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue a criminal investigation. The outcome of this referral could have significant implications for Fauci's reputation and future career in public health.