Transcript: MP Brad Wenstrup on Face the Nation, March 5, 2023

The following is a transcript of an interview with Ohio Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup that aired on Sunday, March 5, 2023 on Face the Nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We now turn to Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who chairs the select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic. Doctor, welcome to the program.


MARGARET BRENNAN: There are 18 different intelligence agencies in this country, no consensus on the origin of COVID. Two intelligence agencies undecided, four say it was natural transmission. And then last week we learned that the Department of Energy joined the FBI in saying the virus probably spread through a mishap at a Chinese lab. Is all evidence circumstantial? Have you seen the intelligence?

REP. WENSTRUP: I saw, as you might imagine, quite a bit of intelligence sitting on the Intelligence Committee. We haven’t seen everything we’re dying to see. And some of it is very secret from what I’ve seen. And so we must keep moving forward and get questions answered, because the more we find, the more questions we can have. So you have different opinions. And really, what we’re trying to do is follow the breadcrumbs, if you will. Look at the forensics of what happened. Obviously, this is one of the more serious things that has ever happened to mankind. Therefore, finding the origins of COVID is important. And so we will investigate further. And I encourage agencies to continue investigating this, as they seem to have done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect the FBI and the Department of Energy to testify before your committee?

REP. WENSTRUP: That – there may come a time for that. I would hope they do so willingly and depends on which committee you are speaking from as some of the testimonies would probably be classified at this point. And we would have that in the Intelligence Committee. And then maybe there are others on the subcommittee…


REP. WENSTRUP: Where it’s more open source or unclassified material. So it can be a combination of both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So if this was indeed the result of a lab leak, what is Congress doing to prevent that from ever happening again?

REP. WENSTRUP: Well, it’s interesting, that’s sort of the subcommittee’s role, if you will, I think this is an after-the-fact review and we want to find the lessons that we’ve learned along the way. And we want to have the best way forward. And I’m hoping at the end of the day with the subcommittee that we have a bipartisan product that can really help us move forward. I keep using different terms that we want to be able to predict a pandemic, we want to prepare for a pandemic, we want to protect ourselves from a pandemic and hopefully want to prevent a pandemic. And that should be our goal. And we have to work with many scientists and specialists to achieve that. But we need to get to the bottom of the truth about what actually happened in this pandemic. And how did we respond, the subcommittee is looking at everything: the impact on education, the impact on people’s health, the impact of the programs that we as Congress put in place, and some of the fraud or abuse that may have taken place , but also origins of COVID. So–

Margaret Brennan: Yes.

REP. WENSTRUP: We look at all of these things across the board, what we did right and what we did wrong and how we can do better in the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as for the specifics, I know that the White House is reportedly considering recommendations from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to monitor the win of functional experiments, which are the things I suspect they are genetically modify a virus to improve its functions and potentially make it more deadly. This allegedly happened in this lab in Wuhan. Would you like such a scheme? And is that from the White House? Is that from Congress?

REP. WENSTRUP: Well, at the end of the day, it can be a combination of both. And I think it’s important that we do that. Look, if we were to take taxpayers’ money to fund research, not just in the United States, but also in China, regarding this kind of methodology, creating a chimera or what’s called gain-of-function research, where you can take two viruses and put them into one. I don’t necessarily see a huge commercial use for it. So it’s something that, if it’s going to take place, certainly should have had or should have had oversight. In 2015, Ralph Baric in North Carolina, along with Dr. Zhengli Shi in China wrote their article on the ability to create these chimeras and they did so we know this technology exists. My real question is why are we doing this with an opponent like China? And we need to investigate what the reasons were and what actually happened, where did the money go and why did it go there?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know that Dr. Fauci, who has since retired from the NIH, has received a lot of attention. And I wonder if you think it’s inappropriate to personalize the exam so much when the intelligence community is all so divided? I mean, can you reasonably examine this issue in a bipartisan way without slandering the people?

REP. WENSTRUP: Well, I think that’s the goal. I mean I just want to get the facts straight. And when I was asked to chair this select subcommittee, one of the first things I did was Dr. Raul Ruiz, Democrat of California, to call 911. As doctors, we worked together on many bills. And we get along very well. We cannot agree on many other guidelines. But we work very well together, especially when it comes to health. And that is certainly a health issue. I asked him to try to get on the subcommittee and possibly become a senior member. And he got this position. And I think we agree on what we want to do to do this professionally. There will be some moments when I’m sure some emotions will flare up. The last three years have been tough for everyone.


REP. WENSTRUP: But at the same time we’re just sticking with the facts and- and gathering what we know of what we know and- and who has that information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think a lot of people would appreciate just sticking to the facts, which is why I want to ask you about membership on your committee, because you have Marjorie Taylor Greene on it. She shared misleading information about deaths and COVID vaccines. She compared vaccines to Nazis and forced Jews to wear gold stars. dr Ronny Jackson saying masks never worked. He called the Omicron variant the Midterm dial variant. How seriously do people take your committee work with such members?

REP. WENSTRUP: Well, I think we have a lot of serious members who are just after the truth on both sides of the aisle. I think they come from a variety of backgrounds. See, there were things that were said: Hey, that’s a conspiracy theory, stop this conspiracy theory that it could have come from the lab. Well, now you’ve got agencies coming up and saying we think it came from the lab. Look, we have to act professionally, and I hope we will. I can’t control everyone. And–

Margaret Brennan: Yes.

REP. WENSTRUP: That goes on both sides of the aisle. dr Ruiz can’t – can’t either. But at the same time I see from all the members that they have a background of serious interest, significant interest, they’ve either owned a business, they’re healthcare providers, they’re concerned about the adverse events that can come from vaccination. These are legitimate things for Americans to worry about…


REP. WENSTRUP: And through that process, I think we’ve all too often taken doctors out of the equation and let non-doctors tell America how to treat themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re from Ohio, so I want to make sure I ask you what a second Norfolk Southern train derailment was in your state yesterday, in addition to this toxic one. President Biden has praised some of the bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would increase railroad safety. Do you currently see a need for such legislation?

REP. WENSTRUP: Well, certainly any time we look back or look back at something that happened, we should look at that when we see that there are some gaps in our security. Let’s not post things that aren’t necessarily facts and say there was a security issue when there wasn’t. But at the same time you want to address these issues. Look, we’re always trying to get better, I hope we can. And the other thing I’d like to see as a result of all this, particularly where there was such a toxic chemical reaction, and the fires that were caused by the derailment, is if we have a standard procedure how We manage a community? What is our response from the government? what are we looking for How do we protect our people? Let’s make sure we have good standard practice, so while these cases are rare by the numbers, we have to be prepared for that 0.1% or whatever the case.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. dr Wenstrup. We’ll watch the hearing this week. Thanks for your time. We’ll be right back.

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