The Pompeo-led investigation initially began as a genuine attempt to investigate if China's biological weapons program had a large role in the pandemic's emergence in Wuhan. But soon after its launch, individuals involved with the operation said it became the subject of disagreement inside the State Department. Officials expressed worry that the Trump administration would use the investigation to put blame on China for the pandemic.
Biden administration officials were later briefed on the investigation's key findings in February and March of this year. However, they decided to end the investigation due to concerns about the legitimacy of the report's evidence. One former State Department official familiar with the probe said: "The way they did their work was suspicious as hell."
The same official continued that they were doubtful of the investigation's secrecy. They detailed how the Pompeo probe cut out the State Department's technical experts and the intelligence community. The probe also briefed certain senior officials on the probe's "tentative conclusions" even before department heads were made aware of any investigation happening at all.
"It smelled like they were just fishing to justify pre-determined conclusions and cut out experts who could critique their 'science.' The reason for all this became clear when real scientists finally got a chance to see their analysis – and [the probe's] 'statistical' case fell apart," the official said.
Meanwhile, Trump administration officials who worked on the inquiry defended their findings. According to these officials, they intended to analyze scientific research and information from the U.S. community that supported the COVID-19 laboratory leak theory. They continued that they also wanted to reveal more information on how the virus could have leaked from the WIV.
State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to The Hill that the Biden administration did not shut down the COVID-19 origin inquiry. "There has been incorrect reporting that the [Biden administration] shut down by the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
Price confirmed that Biden administration officials were indeed briefed on the findings of the Pompeo-led investigation. "With the report delivered, the work was ended," he said. However, the spokesman clarified that "all relevant parts of the department continue to work with the interagency on this matter." Price also remarked on China's insistence that its part in the investigation is complete, calling it "disappointing" and "at odds with the rest of the international community."
Former President Donald Trump himself has been consistent on the Wuhan lab leak theory. He told Newsmax on May 25: "I said it right at the beginning, and that's where it came from. People didn't want to say China."
The former president continued: "I said right at the beginning [that] it came out of Wuhan. [That's] where all the deaths were also, by the way. [When] we first heard about this – there were body bags [and] dead people laying all over Wuhan [in Hubei] province, and that's where it happened to be located." (Related: More signs point to coronavirus being engineered in Wuhan lab.)
Trump remarked that China should be punished for its lack of transparency and its refusal to cooperate with international organizations. He also exhorted Biden to take a tougher stance on the Chinese regime. "We have to be stronger than what we are right now. What's going on is just very unfortunate," he said.
But soon after, Biden himself walked back on the earlier mandate and reinstated a new investigation on the matter. The incumbent president said in a May 26 White House statement: "I have now asked the [U.S.] intelligence community to redouble [its] efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days. As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required – including specific questions for China."
Biden's statement added that the U.S. will "keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent [and] evidence-based international investigation." (Related: Biden reinstates investigation into covid origin following CNN criticism.)
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