On June 1, The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News released thousands of emails to the public that were sent to and from the inbox of White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci. The emails span from January 2020, before COVID-19 was even declared a pandemic, through June 2020.
After the emails were released, several Republican lawmakers, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, called for Dr. Fauci’s firing, claiming that the emails were leaked and prove the nation’s top infectious disease doctor misled the American public about COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic.
Were Dr. Fauci’s emails leaked?
No, Dr. Fauci’s emails were not leaked.
WHAT WE FOUND
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency.
“Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement,” the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) says on its website specifically designed to address everything related to FOIA.
According to Niquelle M. Allen, Esq., the director of the District of Columbia Office of Open Government, Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA), FOIA requests can be made at the federal and local levels.
“State governments, including the District of Columbia, have separate Freedom of Information or open access rules but those rules are patterned after the federal rule,” Allen told VERIFY by phone.
She says anyone can make a FOIA request and the information is accessible to the public as long as it is not protected from disclosure by law.
“Once the information is given to you under the Freedom of Information Act, it is public,” said Allen. “If you're seeking information and they happen to fall under an exemption, the government can either redact or blackout the portion of the record that falls under the exemption and give you the record, or they can withhold the record in its entirety. But they have to give you an explanation and the legal reason of why they're withholding that information, they can't just hold it, they have to tell you why and have to justify it.”
Allen says in D.C., lawyers and journalists are the main groups of people who typically make FOIA requests.
“I think journalists are the largest group, but it makes sense because that's how they report information to the public and as they should kind of be the fourth branch of government and keep an eye on what the government's doing,” she said.
The DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) walks people through the steps on “How to make a FOIA request” at the federal level and answers any questions individuals may have about FOIA on its website: FOIA.gov. Allen also shared information on how to file a FOIA request in D.C.
On the morning of June 2, Rep. Taylor Greene tweeted a link to a bill she first introduced in April called the “Fire Fauci Act.” It calls to “reduce the salary of the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to provide for an audit of the correspondence, financial statements, and policy memoranda within the Office of the Director during the COVID–19 outbreak, and for other purposes.”
In an interview with NewsNation Now host Leland Vittert, Dr. Fauci responded to the criticism on June 2 and warned against taking the emails out of context.
“They are really ripe to be taken out of context where someone can snip out a sentence in an email without showing the other emails and say, ‘based on an email from Dr. Fauci, he said such-and-such,’ where you don’t really have the full context,” he said.