The controversial briefing highlights Republicans’ reluctance to accept the inconclusive findings of the administration’s 90-day investigation to determine the origins of the pandemic and shows that the issue will likely remain a key point of GOP criticism of the Biden administration. .
Some lawmakers have seized on the ongoing ambiguity surrounding the original question as an opening to argue that Biden has not been tough enough on China.
Republicans’ insistence on exploring the lab leak theory comes against the backdrop of ongoing friction between China and the United States over the origins of the pandemic. President Joe Biden has vowed to continue to push China for answers about the source of the virus and, in September, pressed on the matter in a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
29 briefing, which was intended to provide an opportunity for House Intelligence Committee lawmakers to ask questions about the investigation and its findings, Republican members pressed intelligence briefers to identify outside experts involved in the investigation, who were five. were familiar with the sources. Told the matter to CNN.
Sources said the MPs were disappointed when the briefers refused to name the experts. One source noted that Congress has the power to coerce that information – although it has not done so to date and is unlikely to do so under Democratic control.
At one point during the hearing, in a move that upset some Democratic members of the committee, GOP lawmakers read through a list of names and were asked to answer yes or no, according to multiple sources familiar with the briefers. were they involved? meeting.
Intelligence officials would not normally be expected to disclose those names in a briefing setting, although a source familiar with the meeting noted that Republicans were seeking to identify the non-government scientists they consulted – Not an intelligence officer.
Particularly under scrutiny was Peter Daszak, the US representative to the World Health Organization who investigated the origins of the pandemic last year, which declared that the virus almost certainly evolved naturally. CNN has reached out to Daszak for comment.
Daszak previously partnered with the lab in Wuhan, China, where some believe the virus may have originated, to conduct research on bat coronaviruses that some scientists and intelligence officials now believe. that could lead to an epidemic. Critics, including some Republican lawmakers, have raised questions about whether Daszak’s previous work with the lab is a conflict of interest.
Following the WHO investigation, Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus almost immediately publicly declared that the possibility of a laboratory leak had not been adequately investigated.
House Republicans, citing mostly publicly available information, have claimed that “evidence suggests” the coronavirus was accidentally released from a laboratory in Wuhan in 2019, by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul in August. According to a GOP report released in Instead of relying on classified intelligence, the report was based primarily on news and academic articles and interviews.
Republicans have repeatedly called for the Biden administration not to show interest in conducting a rigorous investigation into the possibility that the COVID-19 virus may have escaped from a laboratory.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration is refusing to take the investigation into the origins of this virus seriously,” McCall said in June.
Intelligence officials have concluded with confidence that the virus was not a product of China’s bio-weapons program.