The congressional committee looking into the illegal Reedley lab wants to see documents about the lab’s dealings, and the committee chair says the two federal agencies closest to the matter aren’t playing ball.
Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, threatened a subpoena Friday for documents from the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services between them and Universal Meditech, Inc. and Prestige Biotech.
Reedley city inspectors uncovered 20 deadly diseases as well as thousands of gallons of biological material at a lab. Prestige Biotech acquired the material from Fresno-based Universal Meditech, a manufacturer of pregnancy and COVID tests.
“To properly carry out the Select Subcommittee’s missions, including assessing the government’s ability to keep America safe from biological threats and assessing legislative solutions regarding biosafety and biosecurity, we must have the full cooperation of federal agencies,” Wenstrup said in a statement. “If the Department fails to comply with our legitimate oversight requests, we will be forced to evaluate the use of the compulsory process.”
FBI and HHS Have ‘Substantial Documents’ About Lab
The request for the FBI and HHS documents goes back to Aug. 23. The subcommittee wanted to know what communication the two agencies had made with both the company and other federal departments. Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is secretary of HHS.
“Both the FBI and HHS have substantial documents and communications that will shed light on the legality, functions, and contents of this unlicensed lab,” the news release stated. “And if responses are not provided on or before September 14, 2023, Chairman Wenstrup will be forced to consider a subpoena.”
Local, State Agencies Slow to Respond
Other agencies have been slow to respond as well.
The County of Fresno refused a public records request made by GV Wire citing an active investigation as the reason for the denial.
California Department of Public Health responded Wednesday to an inquiry made on Aug. 10 about Universal Meditech’s license information. Though documents were not provided, the department said they would released “on a rolling basis after reviewing for redactions.”
Fresno City Councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Miguel Arias have criticized the county’s response to the discovery of the lab and its contents. Both are running for county supervisor positions in 2024.
The duo, along with Councilman Nelson Esparza, have accused supervisors of withholding information from the public about the lab. Supervisors have said that the FBI and CDPH informed officials to keep quiet about the lab.
CDPH claims it never told Fresno County officials to withhold news about on the discovery of the Reedley lab, according to the SJV Sun.