Congressional Republicans are vowing to keep investigating Anthony Fauci even after he steps down from his government roles at the end of the year.
“Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement. Comer would likely become the chair of the committee in a Republican majority.
Fauci, who is chief medical adviser to President Biden and has spent decades as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced Monday that he would step down from his positions in the Biden administration after more than a half-century in government. Fauci said he is not retiring and plans to “pursue the next phase” of his career.
“It’s good to know that with his retirement, Dr. Fauci will have ample time to appear before Congress and share under oath what he knew about the Wuhan lab, as well as the ever-changing guidance under his watch that resulted in wrongful mandates being imposed on Americans,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is also ranking member on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also pledged in a tweet that a GOP House majority would “hold him accountable,” charging that Fauci “lost the trust of the American people when his guidance unnecessarily kept schools closed and businesses shut while obscuring questions about his knowledge on the origins of COVID.”
Republicans have already launched probes into the origins of the coronavirus and are planning further investigations and hearings if they win the majority in November, including possibly digging into Fauci’s own records.
“Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has gotten into heated exchanges with Fauci during Senate hearings and is in line to become chairman of the Senate Health Committee if Republicans win the majority in the upper chamber.
Fauci became the most public face of the federal government’s COVID-19 response, but he also became a top target of Republicans. He publicly disagreed with former President Trump over the level of threat the virus posed and unproven treatments, and he was among the leading voices calling for mitigation measures.
“In January, a GOP Congress should hold Fauci fully accountable for his dishonesty, corruption, abuse of power, and multiple lies under oath,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “Never in our nation’s history has one arrogant bureaucrat destroyed more people’s lives.”
Republicans have pushed the theory that the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and that U.S. funding went to “dangerous” research on coronaviruses at the same lab.
Two studies released last month point to the theory that the virus was transmitted from animals to humans, likely in a Wuhan market, though some scientists think the idea that it escaped from a lab warrants further investigation. The U.S. intelligence community has said the virus was not created as a bioweapon.
Additional investigation is unlikely to happen without cooperation from China.
“Emails obtained by Oversight Committee Republicans reveal what Dr. Fauci said publicly about COVID origins was very different than what was said privately,” Comer said in his statement.
“Dr. Fauci was warned by top scientists early on that the virus looked genetically manipulated and likely leaked from the Wuhan lab. Despite these facts, Dr. Fauci dismissed these ideas in public as conspiracy theories. We need to know if Dr. Fauci concealed anything from government officials in order to shield the NIH’s cozy relationship with EcoHealth Alliance, a grantee that awarded taxpayer funds to the Wuhan lab to conduct dangerous research on bat coronaviruses. The American people deserve transparency and accountability about how government officials used their taxpayer dollars, and Oversight Committee Republicans will deliver.”
Some Republicans suggested that Fauci timed his departure from government to avoid dealing with a GOP majority taking power next year.
“Dr. Fauci clearly knows the Red Tsunami is coming this November which is why he is retiring before Republicans gain control of the House,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), chair of the House GOP Conference, said in a statement. “Dr. Fauci, the highest paid US government official who has been in his appointed bureaucratic position since before I was born, is an example of an unelected Washington bureaucrat who was given far too much power throughout his career and caused irreparable harm to the American people.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, tweeted “Dr. Fauci is conveniently resigning from his position in December before House Republicans have an opportunity to hold him accountable for destroying our country over these past three years. This guy is a coward.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tweeted in reaction to Fauci’s departure: “Interesting timing… #COVIDHearings.”
Peter Staley, a longtime HIV/AIDS activist and friend of Fauci’s, responded to an assertion from Donald Trump Jr. that Fauci is trying to avoid oversight by leaving the government at the end of the year.
“Tony knows full well this doesn’t preclude his being Benghazied by your fellow numbnuts in the House. He’s ready for it, and fully armed with the truth,” Staley tweeted.
Updated at 5:05 p.m.