(CNSNews.com) – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Sunday he has requested a full briefing from the administration on the evidence that led the U.S. Department of Energy to join several other government agencies that now view a Chinese laboratory leak as the likeliest origin of the virus causing COVID-19.
McCaul was responding to a Wall Street Journal report saying the DOE had shifted from being undecided on the issue to assessing – albeit with “low confidence” – that an accidental leak from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan gave rise to the pandemic, which has been blamed for more than 6.8 million deaths across the world since early 2020.
The report said the DOE now joins the FBI in supporting the lab-leak hypothesis (the FBI does so with “moderate confidence), while the CIA remains undecided between the lab-leak and natural origin theories.
Meanwhile four other – unnamed – agencies assess (with “low confidence”) that natural transmission of the coronavirus from an infected animal was the likeliest origin of the pandemic, it said.
The hypothesis that the virus may have leaked accidentally from one of two high-security labs in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak emerged in late 2019, began stoking debate just weeks into the outbreak, but was largely dismissed by mainstream media and many scientists as a fringe China-bashing theory.
One of the labs, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), specialized in investigating pathogens including bat coronaviruses. It is located less than nine miles away from the seafood market that was initially believed to be a likely setting for the virus’ jump from animal to human.
Another lab, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, is just a few hundred yards away from the seafood market.
McCaul said he pleased that the DOE had finally reached the same conclusion that he had after an extensive investigation by the committee’s then minority staff.
That investigation concluded in a report 18 months ago, he said, that “the preponderance of the evidence proved the coronavirus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology because of dangerously unsafe conditions at the lab, and that the release turned into the global COVID-19 pandemic because the Chinese Communist Party focused on covering up their mistake instead of warning the world.”
Calling for a thorough briefing from the administration, McCaul said it was time for the entire Biden administration to join the DOE and FBI “and the majority of Americans by publicly concluding what common sense told us at the start – the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a lab leak in Wuhan, China.”
“It is critical the administration also begin to work immediately with our partners and allies around the world to both hold the CCP accountable and to put in place updated international regulations to ensure something like this cannot happen again,” he said.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday responded cautiously to the report, saying there was still no “definitive answer” on COVID-19 origins.
“Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“President Biden has directed, repeatedly, every element of our intelligence community to put effort and resources behind getting to the bottom of this question,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“If we gain any further insight or information, we will share it with Congress, and we will share it with the American people,” he said. “But right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.”
While he said he could not confirm the Wall Street Journal report, Sullivan did note that Biden had specifically asked the National Laboratories, which fall under the DOE, “to be brought into this assessment, because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) called on Sunday for “extensive” public hearings on the claims, saying the world needs to know how the CCP operates. He said he hoped congressional Democrats would support such action.
“Look, this is a country that has no problem coming out and lying to the world,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about the new report. “We just saw that with this Chinese spy balloon. It’s the nature of a communist dictatorship to lie to their own people, to lie to the world.”
“But I think that we need to make sure every country knows that, and then look at what the consequences could be,” Sullivan said. “Obviously millions of deaths, huge economic impacts. And it would once again show that the Chinese Communist Party is not only a menace, but the nature of these regimes is to lie to the world. And we need to make that clear to people.”
Beijing has throughout rejected claims that the virus may have spilled over from a lab in Wuhan. It points frequently to the conclusions of a World Health Organization-convened expert team which after visiting Wuhan said in early 2021 that the lab-leak theory was “extremely unlikely.”
Controversially, that team of Chinese and international scientists also recommended that the lab-leak hypothesis should not be pursued further.
Although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus subsequently overruled that recommendation, China has largely withheld cooperation, while maintaining its heated denials.
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