Biden, Senators Ramp Up Wuhan Lab Probe as Rand Paul Demands Fauci's Departure

The Senate has unanimously passed a bill declassifying federal information on the origins of COVID-19 as President Joe Biden ordered a deep investigation into the cause of the global pandemic.

Both announcements follow months of growing suspicion in the U.S. that an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) triggered the pandemic. As of May 26, the pandemic has killed more than 591,941 Americans.

China has vehemently denounced the lab leak questions as Western propaganda. However, the country's claim that the outbreak began in a Wuhan wet market has failed to satisfy U.N. investigators and Western scientists.

Growing suspicion in the U.S. of a lab leak has dented the reputation of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Fauci has changed his public statements about the pandemic's origins as well as funding he authorized for research at the WIV.

"Fauci should go," Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, one of Fauci's fiercest critics, told the Christian Broadcasting Network. Paul accused Fauci of "obfuscating the truth" about the virus' origins and of downplaying his own role in funding the WIV's research.

fauci covid-19 origins paul hawley wuhan intelligence
Both Democratic Joe Biden and the Senate have directed federal intelligence agencies to provide clearer investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 vaccine. Their directives have coincided with Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's increased criticisms that national infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has been "obfuscating" details about the pandemic's origins. In this photo, Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks after a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty

The lab conducted gain-of-function experiments to understand how animals can transmit new viruses to humans. Fauci said that such research is necessary to prevent future pandemics. However, Fauci has vehemently denied that the WIV used NIAID money to fund such experiments.

"Scientists from other places have said, 'Yes, it was gain-of-function. They were making a super virus,'" Senator Paul said of the WIV scientists. "And so then you have Dr. Fauci saying, 'Oh no, it didn't happen.' I think he's concerned that if it's discovered that it ultimately came from the Wuhan lab it will boomerang and come back to him."

Fauci's statements about COVID-19's origins have changed over time.

In May 2020, Fauci said he believed the virus jumped from an animal to a human. He said the virus' evolution couldn't have been "artificially or deliberately manipulated" through lab experiments. However, this month, Fauci changed his stance, saying he was "not convinced" that the virus absolutely didn't emerge from a lab.

In 2019, the NIAID provided backing for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to give $3.7 million over six years to the WIV's research, including some gain-of-function studies. The NIH canceled the funding in April 2020. However, the NIAID had already backed another $3.7 million NIH-funded five-year project at the WIV for studying various bat coronaviruses. That project concluded in 2019.

While Fauci said that the NIAID has never funded gain-of-function research, he has also admitted under Senate questioning that he can't know for certain how the WIV lab used the NIAID's funding.

The Senate bill looking into COVID-19's origins—introduced by Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Braun of Indiana—passed on Wednesday. It orders the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to declassify documents detailing any of the WIV's connections to COVID-19.

The bill cited a January 15 fact sheet released by the Department of State which said that the U.S. government believes that several WIV researchers contracted an illness similar to COVID-19 in autumn 2019. The bill also states that the U.S. has determined that the WIV collaborated with China's military on secret projects.

"Identifying the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is vital for preventing future pandemics," Braun said in a statement. "As investigations and research into the origins of the virus continue, the Biden administration should declassify intelligence related to any potential links between biological research laboratories in Wuhan, China and the COVID-19 pandemic."

The bill also gives the DNI 90 days to submit a report of its findings to Congress. In this way, the bill is similar to Biden's recent announcement directing the U.S. intelligence community to explore the pandemic's origins more deeply. He has asked intelligence forces to report back to him in 90 days as well.

Biden said that the failure to begin investigating early into the pandemic will hamper any investigation. He also said that U.S. intelligence has "coalesced around two likely scenarios" of the virus originating from either a lab accident or human contact with an infected animal.

It's unclear if China will cooperate with the U.S. investigation. Responding to Biden's announcement of an investigation, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. government of "political manipulation" seeking to "smear and attack China."

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment.