President Trump pledged to release substantial evidence pointing to the origin of the coronavirus as his administration continues to the blame an infectious diseases laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Trump appeared on Fox News on Sunday evening for the “America Together: Returning to Work” town hall, where he took questions from hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum and from Fox News viewers who submitted questions over social media.
The president said that China intentionally withheld critical information about the virus in the early stages of the outbreak to cover up the pathogen’s accidental spread.
“They knew they had a problem, I think they were embarrassed by the problem, very embarrassed,” Trump said. “The case could be made, they said, ‘Hey, look. This is going to have a huge impact on China and we might as well let the rest of the world be impacted, as well.'”
Asked whether the virus originated in and escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Trump responded: “We are going to be giving a very strong report as to what we think happened, and I think it will be very conclusive.”
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has explicitly blamed the Wuhan lab for spawning the virus that has now infected at least 3.5 million and killed bout 250,000 worldwide. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier on Sunday that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus began in the lab.
“We have said from the beginning, that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset. But I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running sub-standard laboratories. These are not the first times that we have had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The U.S. Intelligence Community, made up of 17 spy agencies, has been more elusive about its leads and conclusions but did confirm last week that it was investigating the lab as a possible source of the virus.
“As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security. The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement on April 30.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has a record of poor safety protocols and working with inexperienced researchers and technicians. In 2018, two U.S. officials toured the lab and sent a memo back to the State Department warning that the labs was ill-equipped for its purpose.
“During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” the memo said.
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