Several Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have said that there is growing evidence that the new coronavirus originated in a laboratory in China and did not evolve from nature. Some lawmakers even further questioned that the Chinese military may have taken over the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research much earlier than the point in time known to the community, and argued that this lends more credence to the notion that the virus came from a laboratory.
“After continuing to research this topic, I now feel confident in making the conclusion that it (the virus) is more likely to have come from a laboratory. In fact, as a former federal prosecutor, I think there is now credible evidence (to prove this),” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday (June 29) at a hearing on the discussion of the origin of the New Coronavirus.
Among those invited to testify at the Republican-convened hearing, in addition to Rep. McCaul, were Intelligence Committee Republican Leader Rep. David Nunes (R-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Republican Federal Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), health department and State Department officials from the Trump administration, and experts from academia.
PLA takes over Wuhan lab
McCaul, who doubles as chairman of the Republican-formed House China Working Group, questioned the timing of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s involvement in the Wuhan Virus Institute during Tuesday’s hearing, saying it could indicate that the Communist regime had the new coronavirus earlier or was known to exist.
“My committee obtained new testimony indicating that the Chinese military may have taken over the lab not in January 2020, as originally reported, but earlier in 2019. In fact, the Chinese military was present at that lab back in 2017,” McCall said.
“As a (former) prosecutor, that sent a signal to me that the Chinese Communist Party was concerned about something going on in that lab, and that was even before the world knew what the New Coronavirus was. Why else would they have let the Chinese military take over (the lab)?”
The U.S. State Department issued a written statement (Fact Sheet) in January of this year referring to “covert military activities” at the Wuhan Virus Institute. It states, “Although the Wuhan Institute for Virus Research claims to be a civilian institution, the United States has confirmed that the Wuhan Institute for Virus Research has collaborated with the Chinese military on overt and covert projects. Since at least 2017, the Wuhan Institute for Virus Research has engaged in classified research on behalf of the Chinese military, including experiments on laboratory animals.”
The statement also said that the Wuhan Institute of Virus did not stop its research on RaTG13, a bat coronavirus with 96.2 percent similarity to the new coronavirus, until the outbreak; the Wuhan Institute of Virus also published research on so-called “gain-of-function” (gain-of-function) aimed at improving the virus’ ability to spread in humans. The Wuhan Institute of Virus Research also published a study on so-called “gain-of-function” (gain-of-function) aimed at improving the virus’ ability to spread in humans.
The written statement from the U.S. State Department said several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virus became ill with symptoms consistent with the new coronavirus in the fall of 2019, and that the Communist Party prevented independent journalists, researchers and world health agencies from interviewing Wuhan Institute of Virus personnel, including those who became ill.
McCall said a growing number of new facts continue to point the finger at the Wuhan Institute of Virus as the possible origin of the virus. He also believes there is a good chance the virus is man-made.
“It didn’t evolve naturally, it came from a laboratory,” McCall asserted.
He said, “I think it’s time to completely rule out the notion that the wet market was the origin of the outbreak. We found confirmed cases 10 days before the consecutive confirmed cases in the wet market occurred, and it had nothing to do with the market at all. In fact, I believe it was a diversion by the Chinese Communist Party, with all directions pointing to the laboratory.”
McCall led the Chinese task force that released a 90-page report on the investigation of the origin of the new coronavirus in late September last year, which mentioned the possibility that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
McCall, who is from Texas, said he will release an updated version of the New Coronavirus origin investigation report in July, which is expected to include more evidence and information that has been released over the past few months.
Lab leak? 80,000 samples tested, no animal hosts found
Admiral Brett Giroir of the Public Health Service Officer Corps, who served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration, said in testimony Tuesday that he believes the origin of the new coronavirus pandemic was “an accidental leak from the Wuhan lab.
“I would estimate that the most likely origin was an accidental infection by laboratory personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, which then spread to the local population and subsequently to hundreds of millions of people around the world,” Giroir said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a Republican member of the New Coronavirus Select Subcommittee, asked the four former officials and experts who appeared to testify whether they all believed the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
“Yes, Congressman,” all those who testified answered in unison.
However, even though the experts in attendance supported the lab leak claim, they did not confirm that the virus was man-made or genetically engineered to create it.
I think it’s very unlikely that the virus would be found in nature, but one possible scenario is that it could have been acquired from nature and then taken to a population of 11 million, which sounds a little crazy, and then accidentally leaked out later,” said Giroir. When you say it’s man-made, but it’s possible that this involves natural evolution, which is what we just mentioned (the situation), so it doesn’t mean that this was put together piece by piece by humans (the virus).”
Richard Mueller, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, mentioned that more than 80,000 animal samples have been tested.
Mueller said it took the scientific community three and nine months to identify the animal hosts of the virus without expending much resources or effort, respectively, for either SARS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
“Now it took such a huge effort to test 80,000 species of animals, from farm animals to wild animals, everything you can imagine, except for the animals in the lab that I just mentioned, and the results were zero,” Mueller said.
Mueller also questioned the connection between the origin of the virus and the lab, as tens of thousands of different animal samples have been tested, but only the “humanized mice” (humanized mice) in the Wuhan Institute of Virus in China have never been tested.
New coronavirus origin investigation highlights bipartisan political divide in Congress
Rep. Jordan told Voice of America after the meeting that “all (Republicans) are now inclined to believe that the virus came from the Wuhan lab.”
He also worried that email records released recently showed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief U.S. infectious disease expert, may have downplayed the possibility that the virus came from a lab a year ago.
“My concern is, why did Dr. Fauci downplay this (lab leak) claim a year ago? He was notified as early as Jan. 31, 2020, that the virus did not fit the theory of natural evolution and looked like it had been genetically engineered, and he received reports of that kind of claim last January,” Jordan told Voice of America.
In June, the U.S. media obtained records of more than a thousand emails from Dr. Fauci through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, spanning the period from January to June 2020.
The content that caught the attention of congressional Republicans centered on claims that Dr. Fauci and his colleagues learned of a possible leak of the new coronavirus from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, as early as late January 2020. Until recently, however, that claim has been dismissed by experts as “highly unlikely” and generally dismissed as a conspiracy theory by the scientific community and mainstream media.
In May, Fauci, who is the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, said he was “no longer fully convinced that the new coronavirus has a natural origin. He said, “I think we should continue to investigate what’s happening in China until we continue to do our best to find out exactly what’s going on.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), the Republican who called the hearing, said they had offered an invitation to testify to Fauci, who leads U.S. epidemic prevention policy, though Fauci declined the request.
“We had also asked the House majority to hold a hearing to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus, but confusingly, Speaker Pelosi refused to allow the hearing and called it a distraction,” Scalise, the ranking Republican on the House Select Subcommittee on the New Coronavirus, said at the hearing.
In a written statement provided to the New York Post, a spokesman for Pelosi’s office reportedly said, “If Republicans were truly interested in real answers, they would remember that the House Intelligence Committee is looking at the intelligence information in question, and in addition, the Biden administration is doing their part of looking at it.”
The House Intelligence Committee, led by Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), is currently conducting an investigation into the origins of the New Coronavirus. However, to date, the committee has not held any hearings on the topic.
President Biden asked U.S. intelligence agencies in late May to “redouble their efforts” to gather information and analyze the origins of the New Coronavirus pandemic that continues to ravage the world, and to report their findings to the White House in 90 days. The report is expected to be released on Aug. 25.