Exclusive — Coronavirus: Congressman Probes into Pentagon ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ Grant to Firm that Sent Taxpayer Dollars to Wuhan Lab

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., listens during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) is investigating a multimillion-dollar Pentagon biological warfare research grant that went to a New York firm that sent taxpayer money to a lab in Wuhan, China, from which U.S. intelligence officials believe the COVID-19 coronavirus, which is plaguing the world, may have leaked.

Reschenthaler told Breitbart News that he considers it “disgusting” that U.S. taxpayer dollars went to this Wuhan laboratory. He has written to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper inquiring about a grant that went to a firm that provided some taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

Reschenthaler DOD EcoHealth… by Breitbart News on Scribd

“It’s disgusting hardworking US taxpayer dollars were sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. President Trump was absolutely correct to freeze that funding from the National Institute of Health,” Reschenthaler said in a statement provided exclusively to Breitbart News. “To learn a $6.5 million Department of Defense grant was awarded to the same organization that sent US taxpayer dollars to the WIV, EcoHealth Alliance, is deeply concerning. I sent this letter to the DOD because we must get to the bottom of whether DOD grant funding was also sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the potential epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the origins and global threat posed by COVID-19, it is critical we ensure taxpayer dollars are not being used to support their activities.”

In his letter to Esper, Reschenthaler asked detailed questions about the EcoHealth Alliance grant that the Pentagon disbursed a few years ago.

“I write to bring your attention to a 2017 grant awarded by the Department of Defense (DOD) to EcoHealth Alliance Inc., an organization that has a history of collaborating with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which reports suggest may be linked to the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Reschenthaler wrote to Secretary Esper in the letter on Thursday, obtained exclusively by Breitbart News ahead of its public release.

“In 2017, DOD awarded a $6.5 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance under Assistance Listing 12.351 – Scientific Research – Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction,” the congressman continued. “The description of this grant is listed as ‘understanding the risk of bat-borne zoonotic disease emergence in Western Asia.’ On March 23, 2020, EcoHealth Alliance received their final payment in the amount of $1,509,531 for the continuation of their research, which is projected to be completed in October 2022.”

The congressman is correct that in 2017, the Pentagon did indeed begin funding a $6.5 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. Federal records show that the grant description is: “UNDERSTANDING THE RISK OF BAT-BORNE ZOONOTIC DISEASE EMERGENCE IN WESTERN ASIA.”

The “objectives” of the grant to EcoHealth Alliance, according to the federal grant documents, include studying how to combat or counter Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

“To support and stimulate basic, applied and advanced research at educational or research institutions, non-profit organizations, and commercial firms, which support the advancement of fundamental knowledge and understanding of the sciences with an emphasis on exploring new and innovative research for combating or countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD),” the grant’s objectives section on the federal website disclosing the disbursement reads.

It is not clear from the federal disclosures on this particular grant if taxpayer money from it went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese lab from which intelligence officials believe the coronavirus may have leaked. But another grant EcoHealth Alliance obtained—from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—did see taxpayer money disbursed to, among other places, the Wuhan lab.

That grant, which Breitbart News revealed exclusively this week, is under investigation by NIH and has seen any funding sent to the Wuhan lab halted, came from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). NIAID is run by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has gained fame for his increased public profile during the coronavirus pandemic.

What Breitbart News uncovered was a letter from Dr. Michael Lauer, the NIH’s deputy director for extramural research, to EcoHealth Alliance officials informing them the firm’s grant is under investigation because of the taxpayer money sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Lauer’s letter also did two other very important things. First, it was the first time anyone in the U.S. government confirmed publicly that federal authorities believe the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan lab and are investigating the Chinese facility. Secondly, it informed EcoHealth that the grant is being cut off as it relates to funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology—a major and dramatic escalation from public health officials who generally do not have an issue spending more on research matters.

“EcoHealth Alliance, Inc., is the recipient, as grantee, of an NIH grant entitled ‘Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergency,’” Lauer wrote in the April 19 letter that Breitbart News revealed. “It is our understanding that one of the sub-recipients of the grant funds is the Wuhan Institute of Virology (‘WIV’). It is our understanding that WIV studies the interaction between corona viruses [sic] and bats. The scientific community believes that the coronavirus causing COVID-19 jumped from bats to humans likely in Wuhan where the COVID-19 pandemic began. There are now allegations that the current crisis was precipitated by the release from WIV of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Given these concerns, we are pursuing suspension of WIV from participation in Federal programs.”

Lauer added that EcoHealth Alliance is instructed to cease funding to the Wuhan lab while the investigation is ongoing.

“While we review these allegations during the period of suspension, you are instructed to cease providing any funds from the above noted grant to the WIV,” Lauer continued. “This temporary action is authorized by 45 C.F.R. § 75.371 (d) (‘Initiate suspension or debarment proceedings as authorized under 2 C.F.R. part 180’). The incorporated OMB provision provides that the federal funding agency, through suspension, immediately and temporarily exclude from Federal programs persons who are not presently responsible where ‘immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.’ 2 C.F.R. § 180.700 (c).”

After the publication of this piece, Politico reported in a follow-up to the Breitbart News investigation that “suddenly ending a grant early is an unusual move for the NIH.” The Politico story includes more emails and back-and-forth between Lauer and the head of EcoHealth Alliance Peter Daszak, who denied money going to the Wuhan lab in the latest iterations of the grant even though federal documents as even fact checker Snopes confirmed demonstrate that some money did make it there.

In the wake of the NIH revelations, the U.S. intelligence community publicly confirmed the belief—unanimous across the agencies—that the virus may have emanated from the lab in Wuhan.

“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China. The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” the Intelligence Community statement issued by the office of the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell read. “As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security. The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan”:

It is worth noting that nobody in the intelligence community is accusing this virus of being an intentionally released biological weapon, nor are members of Congress, including Reschenthaler. His inquiry specifically asks the Pentagon about this grant that was clearly sent to a firm that has a history of sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan laboratory to study such coronaviruses from which intelligence community officials and U.S. public health officials believe the virus may have leaked in some way. What’s more, this particular grant from the Pentagon—notably to study “bat-borne zoonotic disease emergence in Western Asia,” with public documents detailing the research related to “Weapons of Mass Destruction”—sounds eerily similar to the NIH grant that has been partially cut off and is under investigation.

Rep. Reschenthaler’s letter to Defense Secretary Esper continued by detailing how the NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance has been cut off as it relates to the Wuhan lab funding, noting the similarities between the two grants:

“As you are likely aware, on April 24, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cut all grant funding for EcoHealth Alliance after reports circulated that the organization sent US taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the congressman wrote. “It is my understanding that the NIH grant was for research on coronaviruses spread from bats to humans.”

Reschenthaler then noted “similarities between EcoHealth Alliance’s NIH research and the description of the 2017 DOD grant” and asked Esper a series of questions on this:

  1. Has any portion of DOD funding granted to EcoHealth Alliance or any other DOD grant recipient been given to or used in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology or any research laboratory in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?
  2. If no, what, if any, steps is DOD taking to determine whether department grant funding was utilized by the Wuhan Institute of Virology or another research laboratory in the PRC?
  3. If yes, what is the DOD doing to ensure American dollars can no longer be utilized by the 
Wuhan Institute of Virology or another research laboratory in the PRC?

While the U.S. government increasingly believes that the virus emanated from the lab in Wuhan, the Chinese government and the lab officials there keep denying it. President Donald Trump has increased his criticisms of China in recent days, discussing publicly investigations the United States has ongoing and foreshadowing potential coming actions the administration intends to take to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its actions on this front.

Reschenthaler, in the conclusion of his letter to Esper, noted that he is concerned U.S. taxpayer dollars may have been connected to this Wuhan lab and wants to be sure taxpayer funds were not misused.

“Given the Chinese Communist Party’s cover up of the global threat posed by COVID-19, it is critical we ensure taxpayer dollars are not being used to support their activities,” Reschenthaler wrote. “I appreciate your commitment to our national security, our servicemembers, and their families.”

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