President Joe Biden's administration reportedly shut down a State Department investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that was started last year by the Trump administration under then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's leadership.
News of the Biden administration's actions are significant because the theory that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — which the media once denounced as a conspiracy theory — has gained considerable traction in recent weeks, not that evidence existed previously showing the theory was not a viable possibility.
What are the details?
According to CNN, which broke the news late Tuesday, the Biden administration terminated a "closely-held" investigation initiated by former President Donald Trump's administration that sought to substantiate whether COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan bio lab.
The investigation, which was conducted from the State Department's arms control and verification bureau, "was an honest effort to probe what many initially dismissed: that China's biological weapons program could have had a greater role in the pandemic's origin in Wuhan," according to CNN.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that Biden officials terminated the investigation because they considered the inquiry a waste of resources.
"Even though this discrete project has concluded, the State Department continues to work with the interagency to look into the COVID origins issue," the spokesperson said.
More from CNN:
Proponents of the effort, including Pompeo himself, argued that the potential connection between the Chinese military and the pandemic needed to be investigated and that the administration was justified to include the inquiry in the State Department's ongoing and legally mandated review of countries' compliance with arms control treaties, according to four sources familiar with the matter.
Officials involved in the effort relied on scientific research as well as public and classified information to probe the lab leak theory, including looking into any possible connection between the virus and the Chinese government's biological weapons program, three of the sources told CNN.
CNN framed the investigation as potentially shady, citing critics who believe people working on the probe were "suspicious as hell" or "just fishing to justify pre-determined conclusions."
David Asher — a former top investigator for the State Department who, according to Fox News, has worked on some of the "most classified intelligence investigations" — revealed in March he believes the COVID-19 pandemic began when bioweapons research at the Wuhan lab resulted in an accidental virus leak.
"The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not the National Institute of Health," David Asher told Fox News. "It was operating a secret, classified program. In my view, and I'm just one person, my view is it was a biological weapons program."
In fact, before leaving the State Department, Pompeo released a memo explaining the U.S. government knew China was "engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017" at the Wuhan bio lab.
The Wall Street Journal reported on American intelligence over the weekend that stated three researchers at the Wuhan lab became sick enough with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019 that they required hospitalization.
The revelation moves the COVID-19 timeline forward about one month. China has claimed "patient-zero" was confirmed in December.
More importantly, the intelligence emboldens the lab leak theory, which a group of 18 high-profile scientists said this month requires further investigation.
China denies COVID-19 leaked from its Wuhan lab, saying the pandemic began through wet markets located in Wuhan. The Chinese communist government has also blamed the U.S. for the pandemic.