U.S. studies possible coronavirus started in Chinese lab, not market

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The theory is one of several chased by investigators trying to determine the origin of the coronavirus that caused a pandemic and killed hundreds of thousands of people. The United States does not believe the virus was associated with biological weapons research, and officials have noted that the intelligence community is also exploring a range of other theories regarding the origin of the virus, as it would generally be. case for high-profile incidents, according to an intelligence source.

The theory has been pushed by supporters of the president, including some Republicans in Congress, who are keen to divert criticism from Trump’s treatment of the pandemic.

An intelligence official familiar with government analysis said that one theory that US intelligence officials are studying is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public. Other sources told CNN that U.S. intelligence has not been able to corroborate the theory, but is trying to discern if someone has been infected in the laboratory by accident or mishandling of equipment and may then infecting other people.

US intelligence is examining the collection of sensitive information destined for the Chinese government, the source said, as it pursues theory. But some intelligence officials say the real cause may never be known.

Deputy President and CEO Mark Milley admitted this week that US intelligence services are “looking closely” at whether the new coronavirus came from a laboratory.

“I would simply say, at this point, that it is not conclusive although the weight of the evidence seems to indicate natural (origin). But we don’t know for sure, “Milley told reporters Tuesday.

Asked about the information, which was first reported by Yahoo and Fox News, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the United States “is carrying out a very thorough examination of this horrific situation that has occurred”, but refused to discuss what he had learned from the findings.

The laboratory theory has been denied by the Chinese government and many outside experts have also questioned the idea, CNN previously reported.

A source close to the White House Coronavirus task force also warned that “whenever there is an epidemic, someone suggests that the virus or another pathogen should come out of a laboratory.”

An official called the “reprehensible” the way China has handled the treatment of the virus – and intelligence investigators are determined to paint a more complete picture of its origin.

The Washington Post reported on 2018 State Department cables demonstrating concerns about the safety and management of the biolab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. When questioned about these cables, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who continued to call the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” – did not reject them, but neither did he state that they showed a legitimate connection with Covid-19.

“The Chinese Communist Party has not allowed the Americans to need it when it is most convenient,” said Pompeo earlier this week. “Then we know they have this laboratory. We know the wet markets (fresh food). We know that the virus itself originated in Wuhan. So all of these things come together. There are still many things we do not know, and that is what the President was talking about today. We need to know the answers to these questions. “

Officials said the United States intended China to pay a price, but recognized that the United States must be careful not to impose a cost on China until the pandemic is under control and until that they have more information about its creation.

CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

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