Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday deflected questions on allegations that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to Congress about gain-of-function research in China.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, claims a letter released last week by the NIH proves that Mr. Fauci lied to Congress when he said that the agency was not funding the research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Mr. Paul called on President Biden to fire Mr. Fauci, who serves as his chief medical adviser.
During a Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton asked Mr. Garland if he is investigating Mr. Fauci for lying to Congress.
Mr. Garland dodged the question, saying the Justice Department does not discuss pending or potential investigations.
Mr. Cotton, Arkansas Republican, then asked if Mr. Garland believes Mr. Fauci was “truthful” when he said the NIH never funded gain-of-function research.
“This is outside of my scope,” the attorney general said.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, gain-of-function research in virology “refers to a type of mutation that results in an altered gene product that possesses a new molecular function or a new pattern of gene expression.”
Dr. Fauci defended himself in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, saying he did not lie to Congress. He added that it is impossible for bat coronaviruses studied in Wuhan to develop into the SARS-CoV-2 virus that caused the pandemic.
Nearly half of U.S. voters think Mr. Fauci lied about the research, according to a poll released Wednesday by Rasmussen Reports.
The polling firm found that 49% of voters believe Mr. Fauci has not told the truth about funding gain-of-function research. Meanwhile, 33% do believe he told the truth and 19% are not sure.
The telephone and online survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 25-26 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, with a 95% level of confidence.