Republicans escalate COVID origins probe after CIA bribery allegations
Republicans are escalating their COVID origins investigation, demanding that the Biden administration and other key players comply with their requests or else face being subpoenaed. The ramp up of their investigation comes the same week that a CIA whistleblower told Congress the agency bribed its own analysts to say COVID-19 did not originate in a Wuhan lab. In a letter sent Thursday to HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra first obtained by DailyMail.com, the Republicans write they ‘expect full and timely compliance’ with their requests, which have gone unanswered since they launched the probe in February.
They are demanding documents between HHS and EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology – which were given U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to study bat coronaviruses through risky gain-of-function research. They also want details on a series of conference calls and communications between top HHS officials and medical professionals, organizations and others regarding the origins of COVID.
The lawmakers also sent similar letters to individuals they say have ‘in-depth knowledge’ of COVID origins, including Dr. Anthony Fauci ‘s former chief of staff Greg Folkers, EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, and Gray Handley, who was the liaison between the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chinese. They threaten to slap the agencies and the individuals with subpoenas if they do not comply. The top Republican chairmen who signed the letters Thursday include: Brad Wenstrup, James Comer, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Morgan Griffith and Brett Guthrie. According to a veteran ‘senior-level’ serving agency officer, the CIA assigned seven officers to a Covid Discovery Team.
At the end of their investigation six of the seven believed the intelligence pointed to a low-confidence assessment that Covid-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. The seventh member, the most senior on the team, believed it evolved naturally. The other six were then given a ‘significant monetary incentive to change their position,’ according to the whistleblower. The CIA ultimately refused to make an assessment even with low confidence. ‘Both hypotheses rely on significant assumptions or face challenges with conflicting reporting,’ according to the agency.
The CIA denied engaging in bribery and said it would investigate the allegations. Republican congressmen Mike Turner and Brad Wenstrup (pictured), both from Ohio, who lead the Intelligence and Covid committees respectively, wrote a letter to CIA Director William Burns on Tuesday demanding all documents on the matter. The lawmakers set a September 26 deadline for the CIA to turn over all records involving the COVID Discovery Team and all communications with the FBI, State Department, Health and Human Services and Energy Department about the matter. The Department of Energy, which oversees biological research labs in the U.S., concluded with ‘low confidence’ in February of this year that the virus most likely came from a lab in Wuhan. The FBI concluded the same with moderate confidence.
Five other intelligence bodies concluded that natural transmission – the theory the virus jumped from an animal to a human host – more likely. U.S. officials have remained frustrated with China’s stonewalling of their own efforts to get to the bottom of the virus’ origins. Now they may never definitively conclude where it all started – authorities in China destroyed some virus samples and used up others in research, U.S. officials say.
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