An Indiana congresswoman on Friday demanded a separate hearing on “Chinese espionage” into the US’s efforts to develop a vaccine – prompting a terse response from her colleague on the special coronavirus committee.
Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski made the request while questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci on China’s role in the spread of the virus during the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing.
“I don’t know how in the world that we could stand there and say no, I don’t think China is a threat to a vaccine for this country when we just indicted two people,” Walorski said, referring to the recent arrest of two Chinese hackers charged with trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research from government agencies and private companies.
“I think we need to investigate that answer on cybersecurity. Why can’t we have a hearing in here?” she asked, before demanding a “commitment” from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that the panel would hold a hearing.
“This committee is chaired by Mr. Clyburn,” said Waters, who was momentarily filling in for chair Rep. James Clyburn.
“Right now it’s chaired by you, madam,” Walorski said.
Waters then shot back, “I do not intend to give you an answer to the question about how to run this committee in his absence. You may address him when he returns. Not me.”
Walorski pressed on, “I think we are still owed an answer as to why we can’t look at that in this committee. There’s no other committee set up to look at the vaccine process of oversight than this one.”
During her opening statement, Walorski made the same request to Clyburn, though she was told “the chairman is not here to answer the question.”
The congresswoman also probed Fauci on whether he believed China “covered up the origins of the crisis.”
“At a time when it was clear that there was at least a few weeks or maybe more of transmission from human to human that we didn’t know about and then when we finally found out it was a highly efficient transmitter from human to human, it would’ve been nice to know about that sooner,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force said.
Rep. Jackie WalorskiBill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
Asked whether he believed China was a threat to US vaccine research, Fauci replied, “I don’t think so at all.
“What we do is really transparent, we publish it, we announce it, so if they want to hack into a computer and find out what the results of a vaccine trial are they’re gonna hear about it … in a few days anyway.”