Trump Says He’s Seen Evidence Virus Originated In A Lab In China, U.S. Intelligence Says There’s No Evidence
President Donald Trump contradicted an on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community Thursday, saying he has seen evidence that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.
The virus has killed 234,725 people worldwide — more than a quarter of the deaths were in the U.S. — and infected a reported 3,329,450 people.
African Americans have been disproportionately affected in the U.S., where 63,876 people have died and 1,095,977 have been reported infected by COVID-19.
Trump is determined to deflect blame for his fatally flawed U.S. coronavirus response onto China, and said he will seek reparations. However, he declined to provide details to back up his claim that he has seen evidence linking the virus to a lab in Wuhan.
Asked at the White House whether he has seen such intelligence, he said, “Yes, I have.” Asked to elaborate, he said, “I can’t tell you that, I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
His comments came hours after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement saying no such assessment has been made. U.S. intelligence continues to “rigorously examine” whether the outbreak “began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement said.
Top Trump officials have pushed U.S. intelligence agencies to “hunt for evidence” linking the virus to a Chinese laboratory, The New York Times was the first to report on Thursday.
The White House and State Department want intelligence officials to find evidence that backs up the theory that the outbreak can be traced back to a Chinese lab, CNN reported. The intelligence community made it clear on Thursday that they have not reached a conclusion beyond ruling out theories that the virus was man-made or genetically modified.
“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the Covid-19 virus, which originated in China,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the statement. “The intelligence community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”
Trump wants China to ‘fess up but the Chinese government has repeatedly denied the lab theory and has theories of its own.
Zhao Lijian, deputy director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department, tweeted on March 12, “CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”
Intelligence officials are facing enormous pressure to determine whether the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, two sources told CNN.
The SARS virus escaped from a high-containment Beijing research lab at least three times, causing an outbreak in China, the New Scientist and other media reported in 2004. A grad student who worked for two weeks at the Institute of Virology of the Chinese Center for Disease Control in Beijing developed SARS and a postdoctoral student in the same lab became ill weeks later.
Senior U.S. officials have acknowledged trying to look into whether the virus may have escaped from the institute, where scientists study bat coronaviruses, Wall Street Journal reported.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.
Politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere are criticizing China for not sharing information about the outbreak sooner, and Trump and his allies often attack China when the media questions them about Trump’s coronavirus response.
As far back as November, intelligence reports warned Trump that the coronavirus was spreading out of control through China’s Wuhan region and that it could affect the U.S. “Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” a source said of the intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence.
Many scientific experts who have studied the virus say it is highly unlikely that it escaped from the Wuhan lab, and that the pandemic almost certainly began as a result of humans being infected from animals, Warren P. Strobel and Dustin Volz reported for WSJ. “Some biosafety experts, however, have questioned the Wuhan lab’s safety procedures and have said it is possible that scientists there were studying the virus and it escaped.”
Lack of evidence has not stopped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from pushing the lab theory.”We still haven’t gained access, the world hasn’t gained access to the WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology) there. We don’t know precisely where this virus originated from,” Pompeo said Wednesday.