The Biden administration's classified version of an intelligence community report on the origins of COVID-19 should be declassified, according to the panel's top Republican.
Additionally, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would punish the Chinese Communist Party for its coronavirus cover-up and intransigence.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the classified assessment after the 90-day review ordered at his behest. The White House says an unclassified summary of the findings on the debate over a natural origin versus a Wuhan lab leak is expected to be made public “soon.”
But Rubio said that's not fast enough.
“The American people deserve to know what our government does and does not know about the origins of COVID-19,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “The Biden administration needs to immediately transmit the classified report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and provide a declassified version for the American people.”
Rubio also said the Senate should pass his COVID Act of 2021 that “would authorize sanctions and other restrictions if the CCP fails to allow for a credible and comprehensive investigation into the origins of COVID-19 at laboratories in Wuhan that studied coronaviruses,” according to his office.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked Wednesday whether the spy agencies had reached any conclusions on COVID-19’s origins, but she dodged.
“Because of the prioritization we’ve given to this and the importance of this information for the public, the intelligence community has been simultaneously working on an unclassified version or summary — a summary version — to provide publicly,” Psaki said. “I don’t have a timeline for you on when that will be provided, but they have been working expeditiously to prepare that, and we have also been doing classified briefings. But until that unclassified version is available, I won’t be able to provide any more details of the assessment.”
The back-and-forth between Rubio and the Biden administration comes a 1 1/2 years after the coronavirus pandemic began ravaging the American public, resulting in more than 600,000 deaths. The first confirmed human infections were in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
In early February, WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek said the possibility the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan lab didn’t merit further inquiry. He said a jump from animals to humans was most likely, and an accidental release was “extremely unlikely.” But days later, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reversed that, saying, “All hypotheses remain open and require further study.”
The WHO-China report was widely considered a failure, partly due to the lack of access to key data and Chinese influence over the investigation. Embarek has admitted the Chinese government applied pressure on the report’s conclusions.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in May the intelligence community “has coalesced around two likely scenarios: either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident” and that “while two elements of the IC lean toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter — each with low or moderate confidence — the majority of elements within the IC do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans released their report on COVID-19’s origins in August, pointing to evidence of a lab leak, genetic modification , and a cover-up, making the case the coronavirus accidentally emerged from the Wuhan lab in August or September 2019.
A State Department fact sheet released in 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 the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet asserted the lab “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military” and that lab workers became sick with coronaviruslike symptoms in autumn 2019.
The WHO-China January report concluded the most likely origin for COVID-19 was a jump from animals to humans. However, since then, the United States and others have cast doubt on the credibility of the report, while Tedros said there was a “premature push” to dismiss the lab leak theory during the investigation. The Chinese government shot down a second investigation into its government labs in June.
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