Trump says he has seen evidence that the corona virus comes from a Chinese laboratory. U.S. intelligence agencies say it wasn’t man-made

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak worldwide (provided by Photo Services)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that he had seen evidence that the novel corona virus came from a virology laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Trump did not provide any evidence to support this claim, and he seemed to be making a bit of security by saying that there are many “theories” about the origin of the virus. He has repeatedly requested an investigation into the origin of the virus. Critics say that efforts are being made to shift the blame to China, while Trump’s missteps in response to the crisis are increasingly criticized.

The president’s comment came Thursday just a few hours after his director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, made a statement on behalf of U.S. intelligence that largely agreed that the virus was not human-made or genetically modified has been.

© Alex Brandon, AP
President Donald Trump speaks about the corona virus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Monday April 6, 2020 in Washington.

However, this statement left open the question of whether the virus was accidentally released from a laboratory in China, where the virus first appeared before spreading around the world, or whether it came from animals and then jumped to humans like the Chinese Government has indicated.

The intelligence community “will continue to investigate emerging intelligence and intelligence agencies to determine whether the outbreak started due to contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan,” headed the office of Richard Grenell, director of the National Intelligence Service said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has provided no evidence that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a theory that many scientists have contested.

Trump appeared to believe this theory on Thursday, although the National Intelligence Director said that the issue was unresolved.

Related Slideshow: World Health Organization Facts About COVID-19 (provided by Photo Services)

When asked if he “had seen anything at that point in time that gave you a high degree of certainty that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of this virus,” Trump replied, “Yes, I did. Yes, that I have.”

The president said he could not reveal what gave him this high level of trust. And later he seemed to back up his claim, saying “there are many theories” about the origin of the virus. “We’ll see where it is, we’ll see where it comes from,” Trump said.

The New York Times reported Thursday morning that Trump administration officials were pushing U.S. intelligence agencies to look for evidence to support the theory that they escaped from the Wuhan laboratory. Pompeo has been one of the government’s most public critics in China in the midst of the pandemic, and has repeatedly raised safety issues in Chinese laboratories that examine potentially dangerous viruses.

“We don’t know exactly where this virus came from,” Pompeo said Wednesday during a press conference at the State Department. He complained that the Chinese government did not allow US scientists access to the Wuhan Virology Laboratory, a highly secure biomedical facility. Pompeo said it is unclear whether the laboratory has taken adequate safety precautions.

In an article published by Nature Medicine on March 17, five scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia said that the scientific evidence shows that the virus was not deliberately manipulated and most likely comes from an animal.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in suit and tie: The Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaks during a daily press conference in Geneva.

© FABRICE COFFRINI, AFP via Getty Images
The Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaks during a daily press conference in Geneva.

“We do not believe that any kind of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” they wrote, although they also said, “it is currently impossible to prove or disprove other theories.”

Critics say the White House is trying to divert attention from Trump’s own missteps in responding to the pandemic and point its finger at China as it faces a tough reelection campaign.

“This is about manipulating intelligence agencies for political purposes,” wrote Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who worked in the Obama administration, in a tweet on Thursday. “Whether the virus came from a market or accidentally escaped from a laboratory would have had no impact on the warnings Trump received – and ignored – or the preparatory steps he didn’t take.”

Since January, theories about a possible leak have been circulating at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, mainly among right-wing bloggers, some conservative media experts and pro-Trump China hawks.

The theory that it originates from the Wuhan laboratory is based on evidence such as the history of the Wuhan Institute of Virology for examining coronaviruses in bats, the proximity of the laboratory to the place where some of the infections were first diagnosed, and China lax safety record in his laboratories.

The World Health Organization concluded that the virus had not been manipulated or produced in a laboratory, and said that it was probably derived from an animal, as Chinese officials have claimed.

“The virus is likely to be of animal origin,” said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib on April 22.


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