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The head of a nonprofit that gave hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funds to a Chinese lab that may be the source of COVID-19 ignored dozens of questions from House Republicans about that deal and related matters, according to a report Friday.
The 34 questions were contained in an April 14 letter sent to Peter Daszak, president of the New York City-based EcoHealth Alliance, the Daily Mail said.
Daszak was given a May 17 deadline to respond but never did, a source close to the House Energy and Commerce Committee told the news outlet.
“Total silence. They seem to be refusing to acknowledge anything from us,” the source said.
“At least when we send a letter to a government agency we get a ‘We got your letter, we’re working on it,’ kind of thing. But from Eco? Zip.”
The letter to Daszak was signed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and committee members Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), both of whom are the top Republicans on Engery and Commerce subcommittees, the Mail said.
Because Democrats narrowly control the House, Republican committee members do not have subpoena power.
The letter was reportedly sent as part of a probe the GOP lawmakers launched in March over suspicions that the coronavirus may have escaped from — and possibly been created inside — the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Similar letters have also been sent to various government departments and other, unspecified recipients, according to the Mail.
The letter to Daszak included questions about the federal grant money that EcoHealth passed on to the WIV, as well as about what information the nonprofit had about the lab’s research on bat viruses and the lab’s virus database, the Mail said.
On Thursday, Vanity Fair reported that Daszak — who was the sole American representative during a World Health Organization visit to Wuhan in January — admitted that the group didn’t ask to inspect the database and defended the decision by saying that “a lot of this work has been conducted with EcoHealth Alliance.”
During a March 10 event in London, Daszak also reportedly said the WIV’s chief coronavirus researcher, Shi Zhengli — dubbed “Bat Woman” for her work with the flying mammals — told the group that the database was taken offline due to hacking attempts during the pandemic.
But the database was actually removed from the internet on Sept. 12, 2019, three months before the official start of the outbreak, according to Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair’s nearly 12,000-word report also revealed that Daszak secretly organized a February 2020 statement, signed by himself and 26 other scientists, that denounced as “conspiracy theories” any notion “that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
One of the signatories, prominent New York City microbiologist Peter Palese, on Friday said that unspecified, “disturbing information” has since led him to believe that “a thorough investigation about the origin of the COVID-19 virus is needed.”
Daszak declined to answer questions when a reporter visited his Rockland County home on Friday, the Mail said.
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