The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is pushing President Joe Biden and his director of national intelligence to declassify intelligence related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, carry out a full investigation into the origins of COVID-19, and release information about any U.S. funding for the Wuhan lab.
Officials from both the Trump and Biden administrations have said the Chinese government worked for over a year to thwart an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, which has killed 3.37 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. Both administrations cast doubt on the manner in which the study from China and the World Health Organization was conducted in early 2021. Though the WHO-China report said a jump from animals to humans was most likely, Trump officials have pointed to an accidental escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a highly plausible origin for the pandemic.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking GOP member on the committee, is expected to release a report on China and COVID-19 this week and, in letters obtained by the Washington Examiner, wrote to Biden and his spy chief, Avril Haines, telling the president, “We write to request that you initiate a whole-of-government effort to identify the origins of the virus and to direct federal agencies and departments to examine all plausible scenarios as part of such investigation. During the course of our investigation, which is ongoing, we have identified substantial circumstantial evidence supporting the theory that a laboratory leak could have been responsible for the origination of COVID-19.”
Nunes revealed he sent the letter to Biden during an appearance on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News. On the show, he spoke about COVID-19’s origins, arguing that “there’s building circumstantial evidence that indeed this did come from a lab and indeed likely there was money that flowed from the U.S. government through non-profits that was actually supporting this type of research that was going on in China.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci has been adamant that the National Institutes of Health did not fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab, but he admitted he doesn’t actually know what the Chinese lab has been up to.
EcoHealth Alliance received at least $3.7 million from 2014. Peter Daszak, a key member of the WHO-China joint study team and the leader of the EcoHealth Alliance, steered at least $600,000 in National Institutes of Health funding to the Wuhan lab for bat coronavirus research and criticized the Biden administration for appearing skeptical of the WHO’s findings. In 2018, U.S. Embassy officials in China raised concerns about lax biosecurity at the Wuhan lab led by “bat woman” Shi Zhengli, who had worked with EcoHealth Alliance and Daszak.
“I want to call to your attention the fact that U.S. government funds — whether directly or indirectly — are supporting dangerous dual-use scientific research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Our findings, though incomplete, suggest the United States supported such work despite clear evidence of the People’s Liberation Army’s involvement at the WIV,” Nunes wrote to Biden.
Nunes said he agreed with a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, in which the top Biden diplomat said he was “not satisfied with the original investigation” by the WHO-China team and that he “supports an ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of what happened with COVID-19.” The congressman also pointed to comments by Haines last month, when she told the House Intelligence Committee that spy agencies are investigating whether COVID-19 “emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
A State Department fact sheet released in mid-January contended Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar)” and that the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet added the lab “has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military.”
Nunes wrote to Haines, noting that the Chinese government “has denied access to independent investigators” and “engaged in a global disinformation campaign on this topic.” He argued that “these facts place significant responsibility on the IC to discover the truth of these matters.” He sent her a list of 25 questions or requests and asked for responses beginning by the end of May.
The California Republican asked Haines to provide “all IC reporting and products regarding the origins of COVID-19,” as well as “all intelligence” underlying the State Department fact sheet. Among many questions, Nines asked whether the intelligence community has “any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that COVID-19 occurred naturally and spilled over directly from an intermediate host to humans in the fall of 2019” and whether U.S. spy agencies assess that “Gain of Function research collaboration with China represents a threat to U.S. national security.”
Nunes is not alone in his efforts to push the Biden administration to release more information on COVID-19’s origins.
In February, more than two dozen GOP House members called for a “prompt and thorough investigation into the NIH’s response to biosafety concerns” at the Wuhan lab, asking the HHS inspector general to investigate.
Introduced in April, the bipartisan Strategic Competition Act of 2021 calls for the executive branch to produce a detailed analysis on the source of COVID-19. A bill introduced last month by Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Mike Braun would require the Biden administration to declassify its intelligence on the Wuhan lab. And GOP Rep. Scott Perry and other House co-sponsors introduced the Defund the Wuhan Institute of Virology Act last week to ban all federal funding from going to the lab.
In March, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said the joint WHO-China team had not fully investigated the potential of COVID-19 originating through an accidental leak from a Wuhan lab, a hypothesis that he insisted needed further study despite being essentially dismissed.
Source: Washington Examiner : Nunes wants answers from Biden and spy chief on Wuhan lab, gain-of-function research, and COVID-19’s origins