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Sen. Johnson demands interview with Fauci adviser, ‘deeply concerned’ key COVID records were destroyed

Sen. Ron Johnson is demanding an interview with a key health official, saying he is “deeply concerned” government officials may have “destroyed responsive records” on the origins of COVID-19.

Johnson (R-Wis.) demanded the Department of Health and Human Services make Dr. David Morens, a former aide to Dr. Anthony Fauci, available for an interview with his staff, and urged the HHS watchdog to take the matter seriously.

“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,” Johnson, 68, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra Wednesday obtained by The Post.

Underpinning Johnson’s concerns is a June 17, 2021, email sent by Morens, a 25-year National Institutes of Health veteran, to his colleagues about a request days earlier by Johnson for a tranche of documents about the NIH’s handling of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

“I have tried to make sure I have retained no documents that might lead other members of [American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene] to be approached for similar document production,” Morens wrote.

“In other words, I don’t think there is anything to worry about because there is no ‘there’ there.”

Morens also stressed his desire to receive correspondence on his private Gmail address. His email had the subject line, “CONFIDENTIAL WITHIN OUR SMALL GROUP, PLEASE.”

Citing that email, Johnson concluded that “Morens may have intentionally deleted ordestroyed records” and “directly obstructed my oversight efforts.”

Morens’ record practices have drawn scrutiny from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, which has since subpoenaed him.

Johnson is demanding an interview with Morens no later than Dec. 6 and also wants all text messages from Morens’ HHS-issued cellphone from June 1, 2019, to present as well as emails from his Gmail account.

He is also demanding “a detailed explanation for how HHS will hold Dr. Morens accountable” and re-upping his request for HHS documents related to the origins of COVID-19.

Johnson had made those document requests in June 2021 and March 2023.

All of Johnson’s demands outlined Wednesday came with a Dec. 6 deadline for HHS to comply.

Johnson had made those document requests in June 2021 and March 2023.

Back in August, Johnson called on HHS watchdog Christi Grimm to investigate Morens and the document situation.

Coinciding with the Wednesday letter to Becerra, Johnson also penned a letter to Grimm that same day renewing his call to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter.

“I hope you and your office are taking this matter seriously,” he wrote.

Morens had worked as Fauci’s senior adviser at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1998 until last year when Fauci retired.

In one email flagged by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Morens explained to colleagues he would “always communicate on Gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly” and that he would “delete anything I don’t want to see in the New York Times.”

Morens had also told a Bloomberg reporter that HHS and the White House restricted him from “talk[ing] about [COVID] ‘origins’ on the record,” but that he recently got some leeway if he didn’t mention his boss, per an exchange flagged by the House subcommittee.

“Tony doesn’t want his fingerprints on origin stories,” Morens wrote in the email, which was dated July 29, 2021.

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