[Congressional Record Volume 167, Number 104 (Tuesday, June 15, 2021)]
[Pages S4535-S4537]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. President, last week's conversations about our 
own government's role in the COVID coverup reflected over a year of 
refusal on the part of my Democratic colleagues to accept that the 
novel coronavirus may not have spread via natural transmission from a 
Chinese wildlife wet market.
  As the theories of the pandemic's origins evolved, one remained, 
until very recently, off limits. This is, of course, the lab leak 
hypothesis, or the theory that the virus somehow escaped from a lab in 
Wuhan, China.
  Now, this theory didn't come out of nowhere. In early January 2020, 
alarm bells were already ringing at the CDC, the State Department, and 
in the scientific community over problems with the natural origin 
theory of transmission.
  Virologists and other public health officials studying the disease 
were quickly coming to the conclusion that the way the virus was 
spreading suggested that this theory was flawed. Officials also knew 
that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting controversial and 
dangerous ``gain of function'' research with the help of repackaged 
U.S. Government grants.
  Yes, that is correct.
  In April of last year, I joined many of my colleagues in publicly 
demanding a thorough investigation into the lab leak theory. What 
followed was nothing less than moral panic. Activists, journalists, and 
even our own Democratic colleagues accused us of racism, xenophobia, 
and science denial.
  Major media organizations refused to report on the hypothesis, except 
to decry it as a racist attack on Chinese scientists. Facebook banned 
accounts that posted about it. YouTube deleted videos that dared 
contradict the World Health Organization.
  Rather than scaring us off, though, these attacks left us with 
another question to answer: Why did the very idea of investigating the 
Wuhan lab inspire such a bizarre panic? Or, perhaps, the better 
question is, Why did NIAID Director Dr. Fauci and the rest of the 
powers that be publicly insist that the idea of a lab leak was 
completely preposterous?
  Even NIH Director Francis Collins hadn't ruled it out. In a March 
2020 interview with the Atlantic, he said that while natural 
transmission was the likely culprit, ``the possibility that such a 
naturally evolved virus might have also been under study at the Wuhan 
Institute of Virology and reached residents of Wuhan--and ultimately 
the rest of the world--as the result of a lab accident has never been 
adequately excluded.''
  We certainly have evidence to show that mistakes happen, even in a 
professional lab. Who could forget that back in 2015, we saw reports 
that personnel at a military facility in Utah accidentally shipped 
active samples of anthrax to labs in nine States--yes, a 2015 lab 
  NIH has also had problems keeping track of things. According to a 
memo prepared in 2016 by a minority staff of the House Energy and 
Commerce Committee, a 2009 Department of Health and Human Services OIG 
audit found an inventory discrepancy at the NIH caused in part by 
mislabeled envelopes containing unregistered vials of plague and other 
antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  In 2012, NIH researchers found vials of anthrax spores in the wrong 
place. What is worse, the scientists in that particular lab weren't 
registered to possess them.
  In 2014, an FDA researcher working at the NIH campus in Bethesda 
discovered vials of live smallpox virus stuffed in a cardboard box in 
an unsecured cold storage room.
  Mistakes were clearly made. Lab accidents happen. It is also clear 
that while a leak from the Wuhan lab could have happened due to human 
error, this coverup we are now learning about certainly did not happen 
by error.
  We now have an emerging picture of what did happen behind the scenes 
to create so much resistance to the lab leak theory.
  On June 3 of this year, that bastion of rightwing insanity known as 
Vanity Fair magazine published an investigative report exposing the 
deranged political gamesmanship that prompted public health officials 
to paint the lab leak theory as a conspiracy.
  The report confirmed just about everything those officials wanted to 
keep hidden--namely, that the lab leak hypothesis was suppressed at 
multiple levels of government by officials looking to protect their own 
interests and to distance themselves from President Donald Trump--so 
much for following the science. They were following emotions.
  The report confirmed conflicts of interest concerning grant awards 
that supported gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of 
Virology. The same people who knew that Chinese scientists were 
performing these dangerous experiments on the taxpayer dime also knew 
from verified intelligence reports that three Wuhan-based researchers 
fell ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, well before the 
first reported outbreak. Still,

[[Page S4536]]

State Department officials warned investigators to abandon their 
inquiries into the origins of COVID-19 because it would ``open a can of 
  The internal coverups bled into this year until, finally, 5 days 
before President Biden took the oath of office, the State Department 
put out a fact sheet on the Wuhan lab that confirmed the November 
outbreak and revealed that scientists working there had collaborated 
with the Chinese military on classified research. The Biden 
administration has yet to walk any of this back.
  We are also finally seeing some interest in the World Health 
Organization's Beijing-controlled investigation into the Wuhan lab. On 
March 1 of this year and again on May 24, I laid out my concerns to the 
White House about the WHO's reliance on the Chinese Communist Party for 
funding and support. I explained how this reliance drove their initial 
support for Beijing's response to the outbreaks and ruined the 
integrity of their investigation. The White House has yet to respond to 
my concerns, but it is not going to be able to avoid responding because 
the American people are demanding the answers.
  I think it is important to state for the record that what we are 
seeing in these news reports is not entirely new information. The 
foundations of the lab leak hypothesis remain much the same as they 
were a year ago. So why pop open that can of worms right now? Because 
there is no way to sweep this thing back under the rug.
  We have the sudden interest of the media. Imagine that. We also have 
an entire body of published statements and investigative reporting from 
inside China. Facebook and YouTube have reversed their content 
policies, which means they couldn't stop people from sharing this 
information unless they pulled the plug on the entire internet which, 
obviously, isn't an option.
  We also have the magic of FOIA on our side. We learned from Dr. 
Fauci's published emails that he knew about the dangerous research 
happening in China. He was aware. We know he allowed inquiries into the 
Wuhan lab leak theory to go unanswered. We also know he worked with 
Mark Zuckerberg to determine what COVID-related information flowed into 
the public timeline and when that information went out.
  Now, I stand by my criticism of Dr. Fauci. His dystopian comments 
equating attacks on his job performance with attacks on science are 
unacceptable, but I want to encourage everyone to not make this about 
one person. We now have evidence that public officials were eating each 
other alive over political disagreements and that these disagreements 
derailed investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
  This is more than just political failure; it is a moral inversion 
that empowered one of the globe's most violent authoritarian 
governments. The Chinese officials who hid the existence of the novel 
coronavirus from international bodies are the very same Chinese 
officials who gunned down freedom fighters in Hong Kong, who unleashed 
political violence in Inner Mongolia and Tibet, and who continue to 
commit ongoing genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
  It is time for Congress to get serious about cleaning up this mess. I 
reiterate the same demands I made more than a year ago for a full and 
unbiased inquiry into the lab leak hypothesis and a broader 
investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  Last week, I joined Senator Cotton in reintroducing the Li Wenliang 
Global Public Health Accountability Act. This legislation would 
authorize the President to sanction foreign officials who suppress or 
distort information about international public health crises, including 
COVID-19. I encourage my colleagues to sign on to the bill.
  Most importantly, I would implore my Democratic colleagues to engage 
in a little introspection. The officials implicated in this coverup 
swept science under the rug, orchestrated a relentless smear campaign, 
throttled the flow of public information, and allowed the Chinese 
Communist Party to exonerate itself at the expense of truth and 
  You don't have to defend this. Please, have the moral courage to make 
the right choice, and join us in our demands for unbiased 
investigations into the origin of the pandemic.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
the referenced fact sheet and letters. The referenced articles and 
report can be found online at www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/
06/francis-collins-nih/619065, www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-lab-
leak-theory-inside-the-fight-to-uncover-covid-19s-origins, and 
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

 Fact Sheet Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology--United States 
                          Department of State

     Fact Sheet
     January 15, 2021
       For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has 
     systematically prevented a transparent and thorough 
     investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic's origin, choosing 
     instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and 
     disinformation. Nearly two million people have died. Their 
     families deserve to know the truth. Only through transparency 
     can we learn what caused this pandemic and how to prevent the 
     next one.
       The U.S. government does not know exactly where, when, or 
     how the COVID-19 virus-known as SARS--CoV-2--was transmitted 
     initially to humans. We have not determined whether the 
     outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was 
     the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
       The virus could have emerged naturally from human contact 
     with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with 
     a natural epidemic. Alternatively, a laboratory accident 
     could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure 
     included only a few individuals and was compounded by 
     asymptomatic infection. Scientists in China have researched 
     animal-derived coronaviruses under conditions that increased 
     the risk for accidental and potentially unwitting exposure.
       The CCP's deadly obsession with secrecy and control comes 
     at the expense of public health in China and around the 
     world. The previously undisclosed information in this fact 
     sheet, combined with open-source reporting, highlights three 
     elements about COVID-19's origin that deserve greater 

       1. illnesses inside the wuhan institute of virology (wiv)

       The U.S. government has reason to believe that several 
     researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before 
     the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms 
     consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. 
     This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior 
     researcher Shi Zhengli's public claim that there was ``zero 
     infection'' among the WIV's staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 
     or SARS-related viruses.
       Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous 
     virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS 
     outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one.
       The CCP has prevented independent journalists, 
     investigators, and global health authorities from 
     interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were 
     ill in the fall of 2019. Any credible inquiry into the origin 
     of the virus must include interviews with these researchers 
     and a full accounting of their previously unreported illness.

                         2. Research at the WIV

       Starting in at least 2016--and with no indication of a stop 
     prior to the COVID-19 outbreak--WIV researchers conducted 
     experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified 
     by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-
     2 (96.2% similar). The WIV became a focal point for 
     international coronavirus research after the 2003 SARS 
     outbreak and has since studied animals including mice, bats, 
     and pangolins.
       The WIV has a published record of conducting ``gain-of-
     function'' research to engineer chimeric viruses. But the WIV 
     has not been transparent or consistent about its record of 
     studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, 
     including ``RaTG13,'' which it sampled from a cave in Yunnan 
     Province in 2013 after several miners died of SARS-like 
       WHO investigators must have access to the records of the 
     WIV's work on bat and other coronaviruses before the COVID-19 
     outbreak. As part of a thorough inquiry, they must have a 
     full accounting of why the WIV altered and then removed 
     online records of its work with RaTG13 and other viruses.

                 3. Secret military activity at the WIV

       Secrecy and non-disclosure are standard practice for 
     Beijing. For many years the United States has publicly raised 
     concerns about China's past biological weapons work, which 
     Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, 
     despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons 
       Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian 
     institution, the United States has determined that the WIV 
     has collaborated on publications and secret projects with 
     China's military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, 
     including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the 
     Chinese military since at least 2017.
       The United States and other donors who funded or 
     collaborated on civilian research

[[Page S4537]]

     at the WIV have a right and obligation to determine whether 
     any of our research funding was diverted to secret Chinese 
     military projects at the WIV.
       Today's revelations just scratch the surface of what is 
     still hidden about COVID-19's origin in China. Any credible 
     investigation into the origin of COVID-19 demands complete, 
     transparent access to the research labs in Wuhan, including 
     their facilities, samples, personnel, and records.
       As the world continues to battle this pandemic--and as WHO 
     investigators begin their work, after more than a year of 
     delays--the virus's origin remains uncertain. The United 
     States will continue to do everything it can to support a 
     credible and thorough investigation, including by continuing 
     to demand transparency on the part of Chinese authorities.

                                                    March 1, 2021.
     Hon. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
     President of the United States,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear President Biden: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a 
     significant toll on American life as well as the U.S. 
     economy. Test kits, antibody therapies, and vaccine 
     development have occurred in record time due to Operation 
     Warp Speed and the ingenuity of the private sector. However, 
     the investigation into the origins of the pandemic are not 
     complete. Without this knowledge, it will be difficult to 
     prevent a future, similar pandemic. I urge you to use your 
     leadership to ensure investigations by the World Health 
     Organization (WHO) are free from conflicts of interest.
       Concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency of 
     the events that took place at the time the outbreak started 
     in Wuhan, China. In addition, concerns have been raised 
     regarding the manner in which World Health Organization 
     investigators were chosen to study the outbreak and some of 
     the conflicts of interest that exist in those investigators.
       Following the 2014 breakdown of security measures that 
     resulted in cross contamination with a dangerous bird flu 
     strain and the accidental mailing of live anthrax spores from 
     the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to other labs, Tom 
     Frieden, the director of the CDC under president Obama 
     testified ``We also need to encourage a culture of openness 
     and effective reporting of past or future incidents--since a 
     key aspect of effective response is to support rapid 
     reporting of problems.''
       On February 13, 2021, National Security Advisor Jake 
     Sullivan said, ``We have deep concerns about the way in which 
     the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were 
     communicated and questions about the process used to reach 
     them. It is imperative that this report be independent, with 
     expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the 
     Chinese government.''
       Transparency is an issue upon which we can agree. In light 
     of that, I respectfully request you use your leadership to 
     ensure the ongoing investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic 
     origin be free from conflict of interest. WHO should be 
     required to have independent investigators to conduct this 
     study. WHO should not include researchers with conflicts of 
     interest or with a lack of experience in forensic 
     investigation. We owe this to the over 500,000 Americans who 
     have died from this disease, to their families, and to future 
     Americans who face possible pandemics.
                                                 Marsha Blackburn,
     U.S. Senator.

                                                     May 24, 2021.
     Hon. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
     President of the United States,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear President Biden: I write to follow-up on my March 1, 
     2021 letter with lingering concerns about the validity of the 
     World Health Organization's (WHO) investigation into the 
     origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
       Prior reports appear to confirm that the WHO had ``little 
     power to conduct a thorough, impartial examination.'' On May 
     13, 2021, in a letter published in Science, a group of 19 
     prominent scientists called for a deeper investigation of the 
     two primary hypotheses: 1) the virus began to spread after 
     jumping from infected animals to humans; and 2) the virus was 
     accidentally released from China's Wuhan Institute of 
     Virology and began spreading in the human population.
       Among other issues, these scientists call into question the 
     China-WHO joint study's consideration of the two main 
     hypotheses stating, ``Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report 
     and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory 
     accident.'' This fact is deeply concerning in light of recent 
     media reports that, ``[t]hree researchers from China's Wuhan 
     Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 
     that they sought hospital care.''
       In light of these reports and my continued concerns, please 
     respond, in writing, to the following questions:
       1. According to reports, the WHO asked the U.S. government 
     to recommend three experts for the China-WHO joint 
     investigation team. Although they were not ultimately 
     selected, another U.S. scientist was selected for the team.
       a. Please name the three scientists recommended by the 
     U.S., and articulate the WHO's reasoning for not choosing 
     these individuals.
       2. Beijing has refused to share critical raw data on the 
     initial cases of COVID-19 in China. Has Beijing provided the 
     U.S. with that data? If not, please explain why.
       3. The China-WHO joint investigation stated that they 
     ``lacked expertise and access to investigate a potential lab 
     leak.'' What will the administration do to insure that 
     competent, impartial experts are involved in future 
       4. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the organization was 
     not mandated to do a forensic audit. Why was this the case? 
     Will your administration insist on a fulsome forensic audit 
     for future outbreaks?
       I request the courtesy of a reply by June 14, 2021.
                                                 Marsha Blackburn,
                                                     U.S. Senator.

  Mrs. BLACKBURN. I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nebraska.