Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee say there is "significant circumstantial evidence" that the coronavirus originated from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology. The GOP report released Wednesday hints that the Chinese military could have been secretly working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The report also suggests that the U.S. government "may have funded or collaborated" in the research that led to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Fox News.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who serves as the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and other Republicans on the committee released the 21-page report titled, "In Focus: COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology."
"To prevent or quickly mitigate future pandemics, it's crucial for health experts and the U.S. Government to understand how the COVID-19 virus originated," the report states. "International efforts to discover the true source of the virus, however, have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People's Republic of China (PRC).
"Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology," the report says.
The Republicans outline the evidence against China in the report:
- China's history of research lab leaks resulting in infections.
- Warnings from U.S. diplomats in China as early as 2017 that the Wuhan lab was conducting dangerous research on coronaviruses without following necessary safety protocols, risking the accidental outbreak of a pandemic.
- Gain of Function research being conducted at the Wuhan lab that made coronaviruses more infectious in humans.
- Several researchers at Wuhan lab were sickened with COVID-19-like symptoms in fall 2019.
- The involvement in the Wuhan lab of the Chinese military, which has a documented biological weapons program.
- Multiple indications of attempts by Beijing to cover up the true circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Republicans argue that the Communist Party of China has provided "little circumstantial evidence" to the country's claim that coronavirus "was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to humans." The lawmakers note that China has yet to "identify the original species that allegedly spread the virus to humans, which is critical to their zoonotic transfer theory."
They add that the "outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and resulting COVID-19 pandemic could have been the result of an accidental leak from the WIV, particularly given the absence of credible information that supports a zoonotic transmission."
The report highlights that U.S. government agencies and academic institutions "may have funded or collaborated in Gain of Function research at the Wuhan lab."
Previously, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have both questioned why the U.S. could be involved with gain-of-function research with the Chinese Communist Party. Paul has grilled Biden medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci about National Institutes of Health funding going to the Wuhan lab, and Johnson has demanded answers as to why the U.S. was cooperating with China in research. Both senators are concerned about gain-of-function research, where scientists deliberately make viruses more dangerous to humans in an effort to prepare for potential outbreaks, but presents a risk of an outbreak.
The report states, "At least some of this research was published even after the U.S. Government had paused these kinds of studies in the United States due to ethical concerns over their biowarfare applicability and their potential to accidentally unleash a pandemic."
"Beijing has hindered the conduct of a full, credible investigation," the Republican lawmakers say.
GOP House Intel members want the intelligence community to release all information it has about the origins of the coronavirus, and want a response by May 31.
Also on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky did not rule out that the coronavirus originated from a laboratory.
During Senate testimony, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Walensky, "What, in your opinion, was the origin of the virus?"
"I don't believe I've seen enough data, individual data, for me to be able to comment on that," Walensky replied.
Kennedy then pressed the CDC director, "What are the possibilities?"
"Certainly, the possibilities that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from — that have infected the population, SARS-CoV-1, MERS, generally come from an animal origin," Walensky responded.
"Are there any other possibilities?" Kennedy followed up.
"Certainly, a lab-based origin is one possibility," Walensky admitted.
Robert Redfield, the former CDC director, has gone on the record to say that he believes that the COVID-19 pandemic started when the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
"I'm of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathology in Wuhan was from a laboratory — escaped," Redfield said in March. "Other people don't believe that. That's fine. Science will eventually figure it out.
"It's not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker," he said. "That's not implying any intentionality."