A top deputy to Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated in a newly uncovered email that he purposefully did not keep records that he knew would be sought by the public and congressional investigators.
"I have retained very few emails or documents on these matters, and continue to request that correspondence on sensitive issues be sent to me at my gmail [sic] address," Dr. David Morens, the deputy, wrote in the June 17, 2021, missive.
"Based on this email, it appears that Dr. Morens may have intentionally deleted or destroyed records relating to the origins of COVID-19 given his admission that he has 'retained very few emails or documents on these matters," Mr. Johnson told Mr. Becerra. "Further, Dr. Morens' stated preference to receive correspondence on 'sensitive issues' through Gmail shows an apparent evasion of federal record keeping requirements and a complete disregard for transparency."
The Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the NIH, has repeatedly failed to hand over records that Mr. Johnson has requested, the senator noted. Dr. Morens' apparent actions "may have directly obstructed my oversight efforts," he wrote.
Mr. Johnson asked for all the records he has asked for as well as an outline of how federal officials will hold Dr. Morens accountable.
Mr. Becerra's agency did not respond to a request for comment.
Dr. Morens has not responded to inquiries.
Dr. Morens is the senior adviser to the director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an NIH institute that was headed until late 2022 by Dr. Fauci. Dr. Morens has worked for the agency for more than two decades.
Dr. Morens was writing to others who were part of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (AJTMH), including Dr. Peter Daszak, whose EcoHealth Alliance group helped funnel money from the NIH to the Wuhan laboratory.
Dr. Morens said he had retained correspondence relating to papers he wrote that were published online but had otherwise "retained no documents that might lead other members of AJTMH to be approached for similar document production."
The title of the email was "CONFIDENTIAL WITHOUT OUR SMALL GROUP, PLEASE," according to Mr. Johnson.
Earlier EmailIn a missive obtained previously by the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating the pandemic, Dr. Morens wrote to a group of scientists that "I try to always communicate on gmail [sic] because my NIH email is FOIA'd constantly."
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), members of the public can request information like emails from the federal government.
Dr. Morens disclosed in the July 9, 2021, email that his Gmail had been hacked and "until IT can get it fixed I may have to occasionally email from my NIH account."
"Don't worry, just sent to any of my addresses and I will delete anything I don't want to see in the New York Times," he also wrote.
Michael Chamberlain, director of the watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust, told The Epoch Times in an email that the missive showed "a pretty brazen effort to avoid public records requirements."
The panel in October subpoenaed the NIH for documents and communications on what it described as a potential federal records violation.
Federal law provides in part that people who attempt to conceal or destroy government records face criminal prosecution.
Reference to GrimmMr. Johnson, meanwhile, referred the matter to Christine Grimm, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Mr. Johnson said Dr. Morens's email talking about deleting records "reveal an attempt to limit public access to certain communications directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially in violation of federal record keeping requirements."
"Given Dr. Morens’ statements I shared with you in August 2023 and the June 17, 2021 correspondence above, the OIG must continue to conduct or immediately initiate a thorough investigation into Dr. Morens’ actions," he wrote. "In light of Dr. Morens’ apparent efforts to hinder HHS’s response to my June 11, 2021 letter, I am deeply concerned that HHS officials may have intentionally removed or destroyed responsive records on the origins of COVID-19 or on other aspects of the pandemic. I hope you and your office are taking this matter seriously."
A spokesperson for Ms. Grimm's office told The Epoch Times via email that the office received the letter "and are reviewing it to determine the appropriate response."