Schwartz, the acting head of the Office of Basic Energy Science, told the team prosecuting Chen’s case that the professor’s alleged omissions regarding ties to China were not held to account. be disclosed at the time or would have had no impact on the department’s grant decisions. .
During a 20-minute telephone interview with three prosecutors and two investigators, Schwartz appeared to dismantle the prosecution’s case point by point.
When prosecutor Timothy Kistner asked if Chen was obligated to report that he served on the advisory board of the South China University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Schwartz “said he didn’t think he was necessary to point out and that many candidates do not include their positions on the advisory board.
Chen and many others targeted by U.S. prosecutors are part of Chinese government-sponsored programs often referred to as “Thousand Talents” or similar names. But when prosecutors asked Schwartz if Chen needed to reveal he was a “Top Talent Wuhan City Partner” in 2019, the response undermined the government’s case.
“Dr. Schwartz said he didn’t think so because he didn’t think the 2019 periodic report required a current and pending support page,” the report said.
Schwartz also noted that some apps include a “biosketch” that’s supposed to include all “professional roles,” but the energy department official said it’s impractical to do so. “He thought the form was limited to two pages when many professors have 20 or 30 page resumes,” the report said.
In at least one instance, Schwartz flatly disputed elements of the prosecution case. When Schwartz was asked if Chen should report that he served as a “review expert” for the National Natural Science Foundation of China, according to the report, the energy department official replied, “Certainly not. “.
Schwartz also said that if Chen had revealed his roles as a consultant to the Chinese government in 2017, “it would be unlikely to change the decision of [Schwartz’s] Office.”
Details of Schwartz’s remarks on the Chen case emerged Friday as part of the Justice Department’s prosecution of Franklin Tao, a University of Kansas chemical engineering professor who will stand trial next month in Kansas City. for also failing to disclose his ties to China. on various applications.
Tao’s attorneys filed the Schwartz Opinions Report as part of a bid to obtain similar information that Department of Energy and National Science Foundation officials may have about the significance or irrelevance of Tao’s alleged omissions. Generally, prosecutors must demonstrate that a misrepresentation or omission was material to a future government decision or action in order to be unlawful.
“The requested evidence … would at least raise a reasonable doubt as to whether Dr. Tao knowingly made material and false statements to the DOE and NSF by allegedly failing to disclose Foreign Talent Plan involvement and work” , wrote Tao’s attorney, Peter Zeidenberg, in a motion filed Friday. with the judge in charge of this case. “A fair trial requires that the jury see all evidence – both favorable and unfavorable to the government – and not evidence chosen by the prosecution from its sister agencies to which only the prosecution has pretrial access.”
Tao’s lawyers’ motion says prosecutors claimed the memo containing Schwartz’s comments did not represent exculpatory evidence that Tao’s defense would be entitled to. Prosecutors also said they were not obligated to seek similar evidence that could directly relate to Tao, the motion states.
Tao’s attorneys argue that government agencies tightened their policies in 2020 and 2021 to require broader disclosure of foreign ties, whereas earlier requirements focused primarily on whether researchers had other contracts with the US government, not foreigners. But the charges in Tao’s case relate to the earlier period. Prosecutors last week dropped two of 10 pending felony charges in Tao’s case, but the government appears to be pushing for a trial on the remaining charges.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that recent statements by an unnamed Energy Department official that Chen’s alleged omissions did not matter dealt a “mortal blow” to the government’s record. , but did not give further details.