National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told CNN Tuesday that the threat of potential Republican-led Congressional investigations in 2023 did not influence his decision to resign from the agency he has led since 1984.
"None at all, not even a slight amount," Fauci said during a televised interview with CNN Tuesday. "I have nothing to hide, and I can defend everything I've done, so that doesn't faze me or bother me."
Fauci, who led the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic for both former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden, announced in a statement Monday that he would be stepping down in December after running the agency for 38 years.
"I am announcing today that I will be stepping down from the positions of Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, as well as the position of Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden. I will be leaving these positions in December of this year to pursue the next chapter of my career," his statement said.
"It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges. I am very proud of our many accomplishments. I have worked with — and learned from — countless talented and dedicated people in my own laboratory, at NIAID, at NIH and beyond. To them I express my abiding respect and gratitude."
The sometimes-controversial doctor often clashed with Congressional Republicans since the onset of the pandemic, which has killed more than 1 million Americans, for his opinions and recommendations, as well as his denials that the U.S. government may have funded "gain of function" research at the Wuhan lab in China, where the virus may have originated.
"Fauci's resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a Twitter post Monday. "He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak."
Paul and other Republicans have said they believe that Fauci not only lied to Congress at various points through the pandemic but also was less than forthcoming with information about how the virus may have started, and the role government grants that he had a major say in giving out, may have played a role in the outbreak.
In his interview Tuesday, Fauci said he was contemplating stepping down from the position "for more than a year," and was intending to leave at the end of Trump’s administration but was asked to stay in the position by incoming President Biden.
"Which I took as a great honor and enthusiastically accepted," Fauci said. "I thought that was going to last about a year, that we would be having COVID-19 behind us after a year, but obviously, painfully so, that’s not the case."
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