By Katabella Roberts
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to hamper U.S. efforts to determine the origin of COVID-19, according to Reps. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio).
The lawmakers made the comments during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 5 in which Himes noted that it “may be forever” before Washington knows exactly where the virus originated from.
“We have so few facts because the Chinese regime has obfuscated,” said Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Sunday’s interview came after reports last month that the Department of Energy (DOE) had allegedly concluded in a classified document sent to the White House that a lab leak was the likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wall Street Journal reported the classified document on Feb. 26 and intelligence officials told the publication that there is “low confidence” in the conclusion, meaning there is not absolute certainty in the lab leak theory.
Turner noted during Sunday’s NBC interview that there has been no official comment from the DOE confirming or denying the alleged classified document.
‘No Direct Evidence’
“But let’s assume that they did,” Turner said. “In all of this, because there’s no direct evidence, we don’t have China admitting it, we don’t have the Wuhan lab handing these things over, all this is being assessed by looking at other aspects of the release.”
Wuhan is the capital of central China’s Hubei Province and home to multiple laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). COVID-19 was first identified in an outbreak in the city in December 2019.
While some U.S. intelligence officials have said that the virus that causes COVID-19 might have come from the Wuhan lab, others have argued it has a natural origin.
In February, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that the bureau assessed the origin of the virus was likely a “lab incident” in Wuhan.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origin of the pandemic are [sic] most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News, adding that “work related to this continues and there are not a whole lot of details that are unclassified.”
Wray, like Himes and Turner, also noted that the Chinese regime has been “doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate” U.S. and other foreign nations’ efforts to probe the origins of COVID-19.
Debate Over COVID-19 Origins
However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said that it “was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus—a virus that probably would be more than 99 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has long dismissed the possibility of a lab leak and has accused Washington of “disregarding science,” fabricating lies, and engaging in a smear campaign against Beijing.
Yet the CCP has also not allowed an independent investigation of WIV.
That is despite a fact sheet released by the U.S. State Department on Jan. 15 stating that several researchers at the facility fell ill with symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19 in the autumn of 2019. The same fact sheet also noted that WIV has worked on secret projects with the Chinese military, including classified animal experiments since at least early 2017.
“We have so few facts that inevitably different agencies are going to arrive at different conclusions,” Himes said on Sunday. “And when an agency slightly adjusts its interpretation as the Department of Energy may have done, that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the government has a firm view. It may be forever before we actually know exactly what happened.”