Dr. Anthony Fauci fought orders from the Trump administration to revoke a research grant to a nonprofit linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology — only to “reluctantly agree” after it was implied that his job might be on the line, according to a new book.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director and his colleagues grappled with how to respond to the request in April 2020 to withhold the remaining $369,819 balance for nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance’s project studying coronaviruses, according to the forthcoming book, “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History.”
“On the afternoon of April 24, [National Institutes of Health] director Francis Collins and Fauci received notice that Trump wanted to formally announce in a 5:00 p.m. press conference that the grant had been terminated,” the authors, Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, wrote in an excerpt obtained by Fox News.
Both Collins and Fauci told the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services that they weren’t sure that they “actually had the authority” to cut off funding for the study, which was examining how coronaviruses jump from infected bats to humans.
“The HHS general counsel told them to do it anyway and made clear it was a direct order from the president, implying that their jobs were on the line if they didn’t comply. Fauci and Collins reluctantly agreed to cancel the grant,” the authors wrote.
EcoHealth Alliance had worked in the past with researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been at the center of theories that COVID-19 leaked from a lab, Politico reported. The nonprofit, however, was not actively collaborating with them at the time that the research grant was revoked.
The book claims that the HHS general counsel later found that the agency probably didn’t have the authority to terminate the payments in the middle of the budget cycle — and the NIH reinstated the grant but stopped all of its funding, Fox News reported.
Fauci later testified on Capitol Hill in June 2020 that he had no idea why the agency revoked the grant.
“Why was it canceled? It was canceled because the NIH was told to cancel it,” Fauci said in response to a question during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Politico reported. “I don’t know the reason, but we were told to cancel it.”