GOP Lawmakers React to US COVID Origin Report: ‘American People Deserve Better’

By Eva Fu
Eva Fu
Eva Fu
Reporter
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. politics, U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at eva.fu@epochtimes.com
June 24, 2023Updated: July 3, 2023

Lawmakers who have long pressed for transparency on the origin of COVID-19 said they are underwhelmed by a declassified U.S. intelligence report, saying that the administration hasn’t been fully transparent with what it knows.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released the long-anticipated report on the evening of June 23, days after a 90-day deadline mandated by the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023. Passed by Congress and signed into law in March, the act requires disclosure of any possible links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been suggested as a likely pandemic origin.

Although it provides glimpses into activities at the Wuhan lab before the pandemic, the 10-page report—including three pages in appendices—doesn’t conclusively state whether the virus came from nature or the lab.

“This Friday night ‘news’ dump of a mere 10-page summary is a slap in the face of Americans who deserve full transparency about what information the government possesses regarding the origins of COVID-19,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) sponsored one of four bills calling for an end to COVID-19 emergency measures adopted by the House Rules Committee on Jan. 30, 2023. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

“Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned throughout the pandemic is that our government must be honest and forthcoming if we are ever to restore public trust and obtain justice for the victims of the pandemic—both those who lost their lives to the virus and those whose lives were harmed by unscientific lockdowns and mandates. This report fails to live up to either.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, noted reports earlier in the week confirming names of the Wuhan virology lab researchers who had fallen ill with COVID-like symptoms in the autumn of 2019.

Although there’s no definitive evidence whether those researchers had contracted the virus, one of them was identified as Ben Hu, who worked for years on U.S.-funded bat coronavirus research together with Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist who has been linked to the lab leak controversy.

The June 23 report raised biosafety concerns with WIV’s handling of SARS-like viruses, the shortage of properly trained personnel at the facility, and experiments on SARS-like coronavirus in lower biosafety labs in early 2019 despite known risks. It maintained that the presence of sick researchers “neither supports nor refutes either hypothesis of the pandemic’s origins because the researchers’ symptoms could have been caused by a number of diseases and some of the symptoms were not consistent with COVID-19.”

Gallagher said that the intelligence officials should have released details on these researchers, including their names, symptoms, and involvement in coronavirus-related work at the Wuhan facility.

“This DNI release does none of that and, in many ways, obscures more than it illuminates,” he said, calling it “unacceptable.”

“The American people deserve better.”

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) likewise suggested that the administration may have withheld information.

“As we’ve seen nearly every step of the way while trying to uncover the origins of the COVID-19 virus, the Biden Administration has failed to be transparent with the American people and members of Congress,” he said, stressing that the release “is late and does not provide the full picture of what our intelligence agencies know.”

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Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) asks questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington on Sept. 30, 2021. (Greg Nash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

He added that the intelligence officials should appear before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, of which he is a member, to “walk us through these materials so we can get to the bottom of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed over a million Americans.”

The Energy Department and the FBI have both determined that the virus likely came from a lab. In May 2020, the National Institutes of Health, which had funded bat virus studies at WIV, warned that the Wuhan virology institute was involved in research projects “that pose serious bio-safety concerns and, as a result, health and welfare threats to the public, both in China and other countries, including the United States,” according to a newly released letter.

White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit group that has been advocating for more scrutiny of WIV, called the latest U.S. intelligence report “underwhelming” and criticized it for failing to mention the U.S. taxpayer funding that the Wuhan lab received and details relating to the sick researchers.

The report did confirm a link between the Wuhan lab and the Chinese military, contradicting a prior denial from Shi, the Wuhan virologist. Between 2017 and 2019, according to the report, WIV funded “research projects to enhance China’s knowledge of pathogens and early disease warning capabilities for defensive and biosecurity needs of the military,” which some of its personnel also worked on.

Justin Goodman, White Coat Waste Project’s senior vice president, said, “Shipping US taxpayer dollars to the [People’s Liberation Army]-tied Wuhan animal lab was always a recipe for disaster.”