It was January 31, 2020, and the leading infectious disease specialist, Kristian Andersen, had been examining the genetic features of the newly developed SARS-CoV virus.
"Some of the (looks) features are well done," Andersen wrote in an email to Drs. Anthony Fauci, noting that he and other scientists "all find the gene to be inconsistent with the theory of evolution."
However, he added, "We will have to look into this and there will be some analysis to be done, so those views may change."
Change what they did. Just four days later, Andersen helped compile a statement to be published later in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet which not only contradicted the notion that the virus was created, but called it a conspiracy theory.
By itself, email does not confirm that or any other conclusions. But it raises questions as to why Andersen and other scientists strongly support the protection of "Chinese medical experts," as the Lancet book puts it, seemingly making any suggestion that the Chinese may be hidden from the source of the virus as without borders.
The U.S. government has repeatedly accused China of withholding vital information that has hampered its investigation into the virus. And U.S. intelligence officials - although they do not see any evidence that the virus has been genetically modified - they suggest that the virus may have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan is what they did not disclose, and they continue to investigate.
After the emails were made public, Andersen, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, wrote on twitter this week that "we are looking forward to a laboratory leak if possible," but reconsidered further evidence.
"Significant new data, detailed analysis, and numerous discussions have led to the conclusion of our paper," he said. "What the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process."
Andersen's use of the word "lab leak" may be confusing, however, because he was referring to emails on the question of whether the virus has been altered or not. One theory, experts say, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were studying samples of the virus from a bat, and the trauma allowed it to be released without mutations. That would mean it appeared naturally, but leaked to the board.
Most scientists who study the virus do not find any evidence that it was genetically engineered. Scientists who oppose the idea of web leaks often combine these two distinct scenarios. In fact, no genetic testing for the virus could reveal whether the virus, taken from its natural state, had been studied in a laboratory. And the genetic mutation of the virus cannot be said to be spreading to humans in Wuhan because of a laboratory accident.
Jamie Metzl, Clinton's former administrative officer who has long called for a full investigation into the origins of Covid-19, says the email exchange does not reflect Andersen well. Metzl questioned how much new data would appear within four days between Andersen's email and response to the next issue of Lancet or before the publication of Lancet's February 19 letter.
In an interview with NBC News, Metzl said he believed Andersen and other scientists, perhaps responding to the heated rhetoric of then-President Donald Trump, were quick to dispel rational questions about whether the virus could escape the Wuhan board, and whether it could be changed in the lab.
Andersen did not respond to a request for comment.
A fact sheet tabled by the State Department at the end of Trump's administration in January - which was scrutinized by intelligence agencies and not opposed by Biden officials - says there is some evidence of leak labs.
It has emerged that the United States has identified three employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology who seek medical treatment in a hospital with symptoms associated with Covid-19, which contradicts the head of the lab, who says none of his staff are sick.
The State Department also said that the lab was conducting secret tests on behalf of Chinese soldiers and was working on a "job search" study that could make viruses more contagious to humans. WIV head Shi Zhengli, who has been dubbed "queen" in some circles because she studied the virus in bats, has denied co-operation with the military.
"There is no new evidence that can really support a leaky lab," said Robert Garry, a biologist at Tulane University. "A lot of speculation, suspicion and suspicion."
"Obviously there are parts of the theory of nature that are not available," Garry said. “We miss the medium, if any. We lost a bat ancestor, probably there. But the question of finding that will take years, or decades, even…
"Certainly a lot needs to be done, and it needs to be an international effort that no one else can stop us from having an outbreak and a pandemic like this. With a moth leak, I think we need to investigate that, too."
President Joe Biden has called on intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to identify the root cause of Covid-19 and report back to him within 90 days.
The recently released emails do not shed much light on what Fauci had to say privately about the concept of a moth leak, in part because many of his emails were rearranged.
Clearly, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, relied on the idea that the virus jumps from animals to humans in nature. Recently, he acknowledged that the evidence was inconclusive and called for a thorough investigation.