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House GOP report: Likely U.S. engaged in ‘dangerous’ research in China, COVID escaped lab

Nunes cites "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" of lab leak, asks U.S. intel to reveal what it knew, and when.

Published: May 19, 2021 6:37pm

Updated: May 19, 2021 7:59pm

House Intelligence Committee Republicans reported Wednesday evening they believe the U.S. government has engaged in "dangerous scientific research with China" that lends increasing credibility to the theory that COVID-19 may have accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan as early as October 2019.

Led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee's ranking member, Republicans on the panel issued a 21-page report laying out "overwhelming" open-source evidence supporting the theory that the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), including:

  • A U.S. State Department memo from January revealing that "several researchers at the Wuhan lab were sickened with COVID-19-like symptoms in fall 2019."
  • Media reports that there was no cell phone activity inside the WIV between Oct. 7, 2019 and Oct. 24, 2019, suggesting a possible shutdown or blackout at the facility.
  • Warnings from U.S. diplomats in China in 2017 that the Wuhan lab was "conducting dangerous research on coronaviruses without following necessary safety protocols, risking the accidental outbreak of a pandemic."
  • A recent scientific study concluding that COVID-19 has "several characteristics that, when taken together, are not easily explained by a natural zoonotic origin hypothesis."
  • China has a history of viral leaks from its research labs, including one in 2004 in Beijing tied to an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, an earlier coronavirus known as SARs.

"Significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology," the GOP report stated, adding it was "crucial for health experts and the U.S. Government to understand how the COVID-19 virus originated."

You can read the full report here:

The report also cited work funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that appeared to directly or indirectly involve controversial "gain of function" research in which coronaviruses were made "more infectious in humans." The report confirmed earlier reporting by Just the News.

"Committee Republicans are concerned that the U.S. Government directly or indirectly engaged in dangerous scientific research with China despite knowing of the Chinese military's participation," the Nunes report said. "The Committee must determine what role, if any, the Intelligence Community (IC) had in monitoring or evaluating U.S. policy risks related to these efforts."

Under questioning in the Senate last week, Fauci emphatically denied funding gain of function research in China.

But the report cited a specific example, saying an NIAID-backed vendor called EcoHealth Alliance jointly funded with China in 2015 a project to create "a hybrid virus that combined elements from two bat-borne coronaviruses, including the one that caused SARS in 2002."

"The mutated virus created by the researchers could more easily infect human cells, which was a noteworthy and unnatural modification because almost all coronaviruses from bats have not been able to bind to the key human receptor," the report said. "This study is an example of a Gain of Function research experiment, which enhance a pathogen's natural traits."

The theory that COVID-19 did not evolve in nature as the Chinese claimed and came from a lab leak, emerged early in the pandemic but was downplayed by global health leaders, including U.S. researchers and the World Health Organization and even some Democrats.

But the Trump administration steadfastly maintained it was a strong possibility, especially as China denied access to world leaders to data and facilities. Before leaving office, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared there was "a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan."

Biden administration officials' assessments now align with the Trump administration, with current Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines saying earlier this month the two most plausible theories for where COVID-19 originated are a natural occurrence or a lab accident.

The House GOP report said Wednesday it was more important than ever for U.S. intelligence agencies to re-evaluate and reveal what they knew about WIV and the virus leak theory and what security posture the agencies took on Chinese research because a 2018 intelligence community threat assessment specifically warned of the risk of a coronavirus jumping to humans.

"Based on the information above, the threads of circumstantial information suggest 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 GOP report said. "A recent scientific paper indicates that the virus has several characteristics that, when taken together, are not easily explained by a natural zoonotic origin hypothesis.

"Unfortunately, Beijing has hindered the conduct of a full, credible investigation. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence, however, to support a lab leak as the origination of COVID-19, while there is no substantive evidence supporting the natural zoonosis hypothesis."