Trump Casa Bianca (La Presse)

Intelligence Community and Trump Disagree On COVID-19

The US intelligence community has ruled out that the coronavirus was generated in a Chinese laboratory. The agencies thus contradict the notion that COVID-19 was developed as a biological weapon and released by accident.

US Intelligence to Trump: You’re Wrong

Moreover, the intelligence community once again contradicts the president of the United States, Donald Trump. The commander in chief had previously hinted that China could have indeed deliberately created the virus.

Now, the dispute with China over the origin of the coronavirus is entering a new round. In the previous weeks, Trump threatened China with punitive tariffs for its role in the pandemic. The US was currently looking into the case. According to Trump, he has evidence that the corona pandemic may have originated in a Chinese research laboratory, after all. When asked by a journalist if he had seen information that would give him “a high level of trust” in this regard, Trump said in the White House on Thursday night, “Yes, I have.”

What is Trump Admin Claiming?

By his claims, Trump specifically referred to the Institute of Virology in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were recorded at the end of last year. The head of the laboratory, Yuan Zhiming, categorically rejected the allegations several days ago, however. Trump again criticized the leadership in China, accusing it of not having contained the virus in the country and instead of having it let spread and thus putting “the greatest economy in the history of the world” to a hold.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the administration’s hardliner on China, supported the president’s claim by stating he too had seen “significant amount of evidence” that the virus came from the laboratory in Wuhan, which has long specialized in researching coronaviruses in horseshoe bats. However, Pompeo did not present any evidence to accompany his assertion.

Intelligence Community Conclusions on COVID-19

However, according to US intelligence agencies, the novel coronavirus has not been produced in a laboratory. The broad scientific consensus was that the COVID-19 virus was neither human-made nor genetically modified, according to the Acting Director of the United States National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

The intelligence community did not rule out, however, that the outbreak of lung disease COVID-19 could be the result of an accident. “Rigorous checks” whether the outbreak “started due to contact with infected animals or resulted from an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan,” were currently being conducted, the intelligence community said in a rare statement.

The latest rumors had spread that the Sars-CoV-2 virus was developed by Chinese scientists in a laboratory as a biological weapon and spread from there. The World Health Organization had already examined the theory and concluded that the virus was of natural origin. However, Trump stuck to the theory. Moreover, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also begun to push this narrative forward. According to reports from the New York Times, Trump even urged the intelligence community to look for clues to the theory.

Criticism of China

Trump has repeatedly criticized China since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, he accused the Chinese government of lack of transparency and allowed the virus to spread, while also stating that the United States could demand compensation from Beijing.

Critics and Democrats alike have accused the US government of seeking to distract from its own failures to fight the pandemic and the almost 70,000 dead Americans it has caused.

The bilateral relations, meanwhile, are on course to deteriorate further. During his statements on Sunday, Pompeo accused China moreover of “covering up” the virus. This could well lead to further diplomatic tensions between the two nations, who only recently agreed upon the first phase of a major trade agreement.