Well done on getting the primary source for those emails.
Here's a possible scenario:
Andersen and Holmes find that it was engineered, but then Lipkin gets a call from his powerful mates in the CCP saying he needs to control the situation. Fauci is also concerned coz the NIH has helped fund the GoF research that produced the virus - despite a then-ban on GoF research in America.
They go to Andersen and Holmes:
Lipkin: Sorry guys, we can't report that. Think of the damage it would do for future research efforts that we're all involved in. Kristian, the new Scripps research facility in Shenzhen would be scrapped and Eddie, you'd lose your lucrative honorary professorships in China - not to mention your ties to WIV and Bat Lady. We have to think about what's for the greater good here.
Fauci: And how's it going to look if comes to light that the NIH funded the research that produced it? This is not just about deflecting blame from the CCP - we're involved in this as well.
Andersen: Then what are we gonna do? Are you suggesting we cover it up?
Lipkin: It's not a cover-up - we just don't need to report it. As you said - 99.9% of the virus looks like a normal bat virus - let's just focus on that part.
Fauci: What we say, it will still be 99.9% true - that's pretty good, right?
Lipkin: Exactly. Why add fuel to the conspiracy theorists when we can do something great for the world?
Holmes: I don't know - what if we get caught? They're gonna burn us alive.
Fauci: Eddie, you'll be burned alive if we don't do it.
Holmes: But we can say it was an honest mistake if we come clean now. If we get caught altering....
Lipkin: We won't get caught! Who's gonna catch us? We've got Nature, Lancet, New Scientist on board - we've got the media - we've got most politicians - the rest we marginalize and discredit.
Fauci: These are the hard decisions that you need to make when you have a position of power. You have to think 'What's for the greater good?'
Lipkin: In this case, the greater good is also best for us - it's a no-brainer. But we've got to act fast - we need to get ahead of this - the conspiracy theorists are growing by the day. Kristian, you start work on a paper that 'definitively proves' it was natural in origin - i'll get into Nature and hit the media circuit. Peter will work Lancet and get a bunch of other scientists on board.
Fauci: Then it will be 'the weight of science' versus a few disparate 'crackpots' - how can we lose?
Andersen: Ok, let's do it!