The lawyer who led the inquiry into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has quietly laid a foundation for a nonpartisan commission in the United States to investigate the coronavirus pandemic, with financial backing from four foundations and a paid staff that has already interviewed more than 200 public health experts, business leaders, elected officials, victims and their families.
The work, which has attracted scant public notice, grew out of a telephone call in October from Eric Schmidt, the philanthropist and former chief executive of Google, to Philip D. Zelikow, the lawyer who was the executive director of the commission that investigated the events of Sept. 11.
Lawmakers in Washington are also taking up the idea of a Covid commission. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and discussion of a commission has not produced partisan discord — at least, not yet. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and a lead sponsor of the Senate bill, noted that its work would cover both the Trump and Biden administrations.
The team directed by Mr. Zelikow, called the Covid Commission Planning Group, has financial support from foundations, including one affiliated with Mr. Schmidt and another with Charles Koch, the conservative philanthropist. The group is forging ahead on a separate track that might, at some point, merge with a congressionally appointed panel.