Skip to main content

Transcript: Investigating COVID-19 Origins: A Conversation with Senator Roger Marshall

David Asher & Senator Roger Marshall

Following is the full transcript of the Hudson Institute event titled Investigating COVID-19 Origins: A Conversation with Senator Roger Marshall.

Disclaimer: This transcript is based off of a recorded video conference and periodic breaks in the stream have resulted in disruptions to the audio and transcribed text.

View PDF

David Asher:
Hi, I’m David Asher, a senior fellow here at the Hudson Institute. I had the pleasure at the Department of State under Secretary Pompeo, Senator Marshall’s good friend to lead the investigation to the origins of COVID-19 and the implications for national security at the Department of State 2019 to 2020. An investigation that continues thanks to the good work of Senator Marshall on the hill. Senator Marshall spent 25 years as a practicing doctor, OBGYN delivering over 5,000 babies before successfully running for Congress and joining the House Representatives in 2017. In 2020, Doc Marshall was elected to succeed the great Pat Roberts, a man who I just can’t think the world of the more than anyone I’ve met in Congress. As the Senator from Kansas, he’s been an articulate and influential conservative thought leader in public health surrounding COVID-19 in the nexus to national security, among many other issues.
But he’s also a pragmatist who’s worked across the aisle to try to promote the right thing for the country and has managed to forge coalitions in a way that is really important in a Senate that’s divided roughly evenly. Doc Marshall, thanks for giving us the opportunity to get your views from the front line of where medicine policy and national security meet with politics. Our Hudson founder, Herman Kahn, famously in 1961, wrote a book called Thinking About The Unthinkable: On Thermonuclear War, which was really about how to avoid a nuclear war, but by assessing the actual ramifications, what would happen. As you think about the unthinkable impact of COVID-19 on American lives, our citizens, our economy, our freedom, what concerns you most? Are you concerned that the nation has become so fatigued by COVID that we are losing a desire to get to the bottom of what happened in Wuhan and how a million Americans have died?

Sen. Marshall:
Yeah. David, we are fatigued, and I want to personally start by thanking you and Hudson Institute for all your help as we try to investigate this. As a physician, oftentimes I would get consultations second opinions on subjects that maybe I’m not an expert at. And you bring a certain level of expertise on this origin. Having led the COVID issue from the very beginning inside the White House, and appreciate you working with our office. But fatigue, you know, I just think about our response to this emergency. And what troubles me as a physician is we didn’t follow the plan. As an obstetrician, if we have a cord prolapse, a baby’s cord prolapse is out of the mom, we have a plan. And by golly, we’re going to stick to that plan. If we have a placental abruption, we have a plan for emergencies.
We had a plan. Dr. Fauci took us away from that plan. We overreacted and the fatigue is real. The fatigue that I’m seeing out there, we are having a mental health epidemic. We’re having a substance abuse epidemic. Our children lost a year, maybe I think really two years worth of school that they’ll never recover from. So because of all the crises going on, we haven’t talked about inflation and recession created by the policies of this president. There is absolute fatigue on everything. This level of anxiety that people have, I’ve never seen it so high. And when people’s anxiety continues and continues and continues, that’s when it turns into a mental health crisis. So, absolutely. So people have no energy left when we’re just trying to…when you’re paying $5 a gallon for gasoline, there’s no energy left or appetite to go figure out what started all this? What was it again? Oh, it was a virus that was made in Wuhan, China.

David Asher:
Yeah. I mean, and moreover, it was a virus that has way too many signs based on scientific indications and hard intelligence, as well as public documentation, which your staff is doing a yeoman’s job on revealing to the extent anyone is able to get the government to disclose what actually happened with funding in China. That does not appear to have emerged from natural origins. It seems like a truly supernatural event. It was ready to spread. As Robert Redfield, our friend, Dr. Redfield head of the CDC under Trump, said. The President has said that basically you’ve never seen something that optimized as it spread.
I mean people agree that there was an event that occurred in that Hunan market, but in Hunan market, it had already been optimized. So it may have spread there, but it wasn’t a derived from that market. But you know, this brings us to the lab leak idea that there could have been this colossal disaster in China involving maybe even a biological warfare related research program into dangerous viruses. Why do you think that the US government had even the right to be funding such programs in China? And how on earth do you think that they have gotten away from accountability for having provided basically the keys to the kingdoms to the Chinese that develop bioengineering capabilities to create in effect COVID-19.

Sen. Marshall:
Yeah. So, David, you mentioned Senator Roberts. He was always concerned about national security on bioterrorism and that’s led to NBAF back at our alma mater at Kansas State University. What I love about you is you bring the national security perspective, and I bring the science perspective. I’m a biochemistry major. I’m not ready to teach this course on gain-of-function. But I understand it. And certainly Dr. Redfield understood it as well. So we didn’t have the right to be funding gain-of-function. Actually, the Obama administration put a moratorium on this, but Dr. Fauci found ways to get around this. And, and I just want to share with your listeners kind of what set me off. In January of 2020, I was…I read two or three hours every day. And I was reading some little blurbs about this virus. And China, China, China is what kept coming up.
And you think about China, a history of lying, not working with the public. This happened with the SARS virus that they didn’t come public with it as soon as they could have. So my antenna was going off. Read a Wall Street Journal article that said, basically, “Don’t worry. The CDC is in China investigating this.” So I picked up the phone. This is January 2020, and called the CDC and said, Hey, tell me what your investigation is showing. And they said, well, we don’t know a darn thing because really our investigators are not within a thousand of miles of where the problem is. I said, “But you told The Wall Street Journal, you have investigators on the ground. So what’s the truth here”. Then I went to the doc caucus. The doc caucus are group of Congress member, senators here.

Sen. Marshall:
And I said, “The World Health Organization, and Dr. Tedros seem to be really involved with this. Is he a good guy? Is he going to come clean here?” And they said, “Oh my gosh, he’s owned and bought by China.” So I went on the house floor at the of January 2020 and said, “My goodness, Houston, we’ve got a problem here.” and in every layer of this onion that you and I peeled back, I keep thinking, oh, this is going to be the end of this. But instead there’s more layers. I’ve not hit a dead end yet in this investigation. There is a body of evidence that would prove to…I think if we were in a court of law in a civil suit, you and I could prove that there’s a body of evidence that says this virus was made and leaked in Wuhan, China.

David Asher:
I don’t want to belabor the point about Dr. Fauci. Obviously, he’s had a confrontation with you, which I thought was probably not only the rudest, but probably the least shrewd, probably one of the stupidest intercessions I’ve ever seen in my thirty-three years, working in Washington, starting as a congressional staff and the Republican leadership in the house, I’ve never seen a sitting member of a top tier — not quite cabinet level assignment, but he’s got a special level assignment. He gets paid even more than the president, but he basically disparaged the idea that you put forward, that this could have come out of a lab league. You know that Dr. Fauci’s own ethics official who approves his salary as far as we know, is his own wife. How on earth…who’s the head of bioethics at NIH?

David Asher:
What are you planning to do to try to hold this man and his organization accountable for the lack of transparency, the thousands of pages of blacked out FOIA documents that have been received from a variety of group seeking public information. The lack of responsiveness that you’ve received in your committee, the help committee, which is the key oversight committee. I mean, what can we do to bring this whole system to heel? Because they seem like they’re operating as their own overseers. They almost act like their own appropriators. They get a certain pot of money. They do whatever they want. They handed out to their friends. There seems to be some almost a plutocracy going on here. As you look toward the potential of an electoral change in the coming year. Do you have an agenda on how you going to try to clean up the mess?

Sen. Marshall:
I think we do. I think we’ll be working hand in glove with Senator Rand Paul, who most likely would become the chairman of the help committee. And I certainly think this is a priority for him. But I think your listeners need to understand that Dr. Fauci has a conflict of interest. He’s basically investigating himself. And how the intelligence committee missed all this and has a conflict of interest as well that Dr. Fauci controls tens of billions, maybe more than that, of a research dollars. And he’s very motivated to defend where these research dollars went to. I think there’s no doubt that we were funding EcoHealth, which was funding gain-of-function research in China. So if this comes crashing down, if his house of cards comes crashing down here, his ability to control those dollars are going to go out the door.

Sen. Marshall:
So I the solutions, I think of course are more transparency. We need more transparency from China, which we’re probably not going to get, but we need more transparency from our own federal government. And again, I think the information that you and I have looked at, our staff, the Hudson Institute have looked at, helping us to understand these redacted information that we’ve got. So we need to unredacted information. What we really need though, is the FBI to be investigating this. And again, from a national security standpoint, I think you could explain better than I can, that they not only have agents, but they have scientists that understand this. And I think that they would be a go-to source to work in conjunction with some type of a 9/11 style commission on this.

David Asher:
Which indeed, first on the FBI, I totally agree. I mean, they used to be the masters of organized crime cases. Essentially, there is such a thing as a racket. The famous statute and the FBI is RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It can apply to the government actually. It may need to apply to the government. The fact that they’re essentially putting money in their own people’s pockets and they’re covering up information. A coverup is a crime, as you know. If you lie to Congress-

Sen. Marshall:
Tell Richard Nixon that.

David Asher:
Well, this is essentially the Watergate of medicine. And I think you’ve said as much. But you’ve also done something, I think that really goes above and beyond sort of what…when I work for Colin Powell, Secretary Powell used to say, “Expressions of indignation are the highest substitute for serious strategy and policy in DC.” So he is like we all can say, oh my God, we got to stop this. But you did something a lot more than that, which is why I see you as such a critical emerging leader in the Senate. You put forward a national commission and COVID-19 pandemic act, with your colleagues, Senator Joni Ernst, and Senator Feinstein, Senator Gillibrand. So it’s a bipartisan piece of legislation that would set up a 9/11 type commission to review the US response to the pandemic, how prepared we were, how we are prepared for the next crisis, and really aggressively and with impunity, with subpoena power, and potentially referral to the FBI as another capability, try to bring accountability, transparency, and ruthlessly identify what happened. Where does that legislation stand? Are you in a position to re-energize it in the coming weeks and months?

Sen. Marshall:
Again, it feels like we’re just moving from crisis to crisis under this administration. Dealing with inflation, dealing with a recession, dealing with a new tax bill as well. But I want to stop and compliment again, Senator Ernst, Feinstein and especially Senator Gillibrand. She has an incredible experience having lived through 9/11 and saw the benefits of the 9/11 commission. And she really dug in and helped us design what this would look like. Again, a bipartisan fashion. Look, COVID doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, I guarantee you. So they’ve been in instrumental. By the way, this passed the help committee.

Sen. Marshall:
So the committee of jurisdiction passed this as an amendment to a larger pandemic response legislation. But unfortunately it’s not a priority for Senator Schumer or Speaker Pelosi. I think we all understand what their priorities are. But this is not a priority. There’s so little oxygen left up here. And I think that’s just something I’d want to communicate to your listeners. When you’re living from crisis to crisis, it’s hard to get something like this through all the winds of change up here as well. So, we’re going to keep fighting, but it may take a change of guard here with the gavels to get at this moving forward.

David Asher:
And as a very unusual background about security and securities, where I’m an economist, economic historian who then worked extensively with the military and with the intelligence community on operational campaigns against proliferators and criminals and other big problems, and then have investigated COVID. What bothers me at the end of the day, though, is that fundamentally all these problems you just mentioned, rampant inflation, a deficit that’s actually not out of control because we’ve had sort of windfall temporarily, but we still have a fundamental long term problem here, just the over encroachment of government. And everything has just been emboldened even more by COVID-19 in our reaction. But the end of the day, the problems we’re facing are largely derived from COVID.

David Asher:
Had COVID-19, not hit our shores and hit the world and killed tens of millions of people. We would’ve not spent nearly 22% of GDP in between 2020 and 2021 on fiscal stimulus, just offsetting COVID. And then let’s think about the doubling of the federal reserves balance sheet, which is also encouraged inflation. All this stuff ties back to COVID. And then the question is who’s to blame? So is there more the Biden administration, our ally, should be doing to press China’s communist government to provide transparency, access to relevant information, the origins of the virus, and what concrete steps should we be taking? But we haven’t, so far, put pressure on Beijing. Specifically, should Beijing be sanctioned for its COVID coverup?
Sen. Marshall:
Yeah, so yes, yes, and yes, David. That’s a lot to unwind there, but I think number one is we should stop any type of research going on in China right now. But especially viral gain-of-function research, which we think is still going on. So I think we should stop all research going on there. Dr. Fauci, in our committee just less than a month ago, said, no, he wants to keep funding research in China. It doesn’t make sense to me. You know, when these federal grants are given out that you have to share data, you have to be responsible for their dollars. And both Dr. Fauci, EcoHealth, China, the NIH, they’re not complying with the rules of that grants. And that’s why we need our inspector generals to step up and continue to press the issue.

Sen. Marshall:
This is part of a bigger China issue. Probably bigger than today’s discussion as well. But I think it’s a piece of the puzzle and we’re very, very concerned. I don’t know why you would be doing research with China on this. It’d be like us doing nuclear research with Iran and North Korea. Why would you be doing this type of research? You mentioned thermonuclear bombs. This has killed at least a million Americans. I think tens of millions of people have died with this worldwide.

David Asher:
Yeah. And the number of people have been irreparably injured, we’re learning is just staggering. And from the long COVID and some of these other symptoms. I mean, let’s turn to gain-of-function research itself. And I’d like you to explain what it is, as a doctor? How big a deal it is for NIH, Fauci, virology, you’ve already commented on it. But also, does it cure diseases? Have we seen substantive results from gain-of-function? And you’ve got some things to explain some of this to us?

Sen. Marshall:
Exactly. This is so abstract and I’m a very concrete person, so I want to try to take a moment here and talk about gain-of-function. I want to answer the last question. To my knowledge, I’ve seen no benefit from the gain-of-function research that mankind has benefited from the research. We’ve spent significant money on it. There’s certainly a downside to it as well. But this is a 3D model of the COVID virus. Okay. This is a 3D model. I want to thank KU medical center and Wichita State University for helping print these. And then this is the protein spike. So what gain-of-function research does is take like a common COVID virus and make it mean, or make it nastier, or make it easier to infect. And in this case, they made this protein spike. It has two sub units.
One of them sticks like glued to the human lung cells. And then the human lung cells have a cleavage device that cleaves this S one from the S two unit and allows this virus to dump its guts, and take over the DNA of the particular lung cells. And that’s what causes the damage. And like you said, this virus showed up out of nowhere. With SARS and MERS, number one is we found the intermediate host. In the case of SARS we found the source of it in four months, in the case of MERS, we found the camel in nine months. Two and a half years, no intermediate host and both SARS emerge. We found grandfathers and cousins to those viruses, but this virus showed up out nowhere. We can’t find its grandfather, its cousins. It showed up, like Dr. Redfield said, “It showed up too perfectly.” This is a weapon. This is a weapon, more powerful than a nuclear warhead.

David Asher:
Essentially, that’s right. It’s almost like a molecular hand grenade or it doesn’t matter how you explain it to somebody better than you just did. I mean, but it is a weapon. It’s also a weapon that there’s clear evidence, not conjecture, that the EcoHealth alliances outfit, that’s a sort of rag tag group that gets hundreds of millions of dollars over years to do research in dangerous places to collect viruses that would in back caves that would never have seen the light of day, probably in history. And then go back to labs, including in China, where it’s, according to Fauci, safer to do it in Wuhan than Hoboken. So I guess he doesn’t really care about the good people of China, but he also must realize it’s dangerous to do it in Hoboken. But you know, you’re taking it back and then they’re investing certain capabilities.

David Asher:
And one of the capabilities that was proposed in a proposal to DARPA in 2018 was to actually invest a coronavirus derived from SARS. The original pandemic. Let’s say only killed like 8,900 people. It wasn’t millions. So it might as well be a totally different thing from what we’re seeing today. But to take the original SARS and basically insert this spike protein in it. And some other novel features, that essentially weaponized it. And the fact that that was being proposed to be done by a professor at University of North Carolina, by the name of Ralph Baric, who’s considered one of the more competent, but more dangerous, biologists in the virology world around. And that was going to be funded by the US government. And there’s good evidence that he had been already funded to do this type of work.

David Asher:
Essentially, that strikes me as a WMD guy, as a transfer of technology to enable foreign adversary to create a weapon of mass destruction. Even if that was not the intent, you can’t just go out… Even Tony Fauci is not allowed to just go out and take that capability to spike protein into this coronavirus to make it spread and kill people. I mean, how do we allow that? And then what are the ramifications? I mean, and when are we going to see Dr. Baric called up before your committee to explain what on earth he was doing? And then frankly, when are we going to see Fauci’s communications and everything else discovered to say, what was the motivation? I don’t think he was trying to cause a disaster, but he should have known his programs for biodefense…remember, $10 billion, roughly over the last 15 years, for biodefense. This wasn’t bio-defense. It was biooffense.

Sen. Marshall:
David, you make a great point. I love your term to saying grain of function research is basically weaponizing a virus. And you’re right, Dr. Baric, who I thinks one of the good guys, from what I know was, was one that developed the S one protein spike that allowed us to figure how to make this other COVID virus stick like glue. He developed the humanized mice as well to do the experience on. And then he taught Dr. Xi, the bat lady, how to do this as well. And here’s what safe is in China. They were doing a lot of this research in BSL level one and two laboratories. I mean, this is a BSL level four at a minimum. So even if they were thought they was going to be safer in Wuhan, which we all think that’s a joke. My goodness, they lost control of their grant money. They lost control of the whole process. And that’s what happens when you make a deal with the devil.
David Asher:
So final question. Can you lay out, or just thumbnail your plan to introduce a bill imminently regarding a ban of gain-of-function research, I guess, internationally or potentially domestically. What is this bill about? And, what are you trying to achieve in the next few days and weeks?

Sen. Marshall:
Again, as a physician, we’re always taught: above all, do no harm. It looks like to me, there’s only downsides to viral gain-of-function research right now, until we get our arms around us, I’m saying, stop, it. Let’s stop any funding for what might look like, smell like viral gain-of-function research. And Dr. Fauci is going to get in front of me and say, “Oh, what we’re doing is not viral gain-of-function research.” But I guarantee you, if we got a group of scientists here in front of us and said, let’s go through these grants, there would be arguments among themselves, whether what qualifies as gain-of-function research versus isn’t. Let’s look, if it’s gray, stay away.
So we need to back off of it, we need to stop funding for it, until we see all accountability, remember what China has done here. They shut down their own DNA lab bank in September 2009, just happenstance. Right? And then they restoring DNA as well in in our laboratory. Banks here in the United States, they shut that down as well so we don’t have access to it. What are they hiding?

David Asher:
Yeah, yeah, no. And of course they were making shutdowns since September 2019. The number of shutdowns it’s very peculiar. It is evidence. If you’re a criminal investigator, all these things are material. Well, I hope the most material thing that come away from this is your determination to continue to provide leadership in the United States Senate and across the Congress, to hold the departments that have been involved in this risky research accountable, whether it’s waste, fraud and abuse, or dereliction of duty, and in the context of national security. But moreover your determination to hold the Chinese government, the communist Chinese government, not the good people of China, accountable. The good people of China have suffered now as much as we have, and they have to suffer through having a communist government to begin with. You’re a great policy entrepreneur and a leader. And we appreciate your leadership.

Sen. Marshall:
David, you and me, Hudson, we’ve got a lot of work to do yet. So, I’m counting on you guys to be right there beside us and helping us pass the finish line.

David Asher:
We are always at your support.

View PDF

Related Articles

Understanding and Countering China's Approach to Economic Decoupling from the United States

John Lee

John Lee on China's evolving economic ties to the US and Indo-Pacific and how the Biden administration can respond...

Continue Reading

The First Anniversary of Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

Richard Weitz

Richard Weitz appears on Washington Journal to discuss state of Afghanistan one year after the US withdrawal....

Watch Now