As the Donald Trump administration faces increased criticism for failing to act quickly enough to head off the coronavirus, the Department of Homeland Security has purported that China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic in January, while simultaneously increasing imports and decreasing exports of medical equipment necessary to combat it. The four-page intelligence report, labelled “for official use only” and published on May 1, accuses the Chinese government of “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” according to a copy of the report obtained by the Associated Press.
The DHS analysis marks a new development in Trumpworld’s campaign to transfer blame to China for not only concealing the pandemic’s threat, and thus allowing it to spread, but also for the outright creation of the virus. When the president was asked last week if he had seen evidence that gave him “a high degree of confidence” that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he replied, ”Yes, yes I have.” Trump offered no details to back his theory, which no official reports or government agencies have stood by. “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” he said, before going on to suggest that China may have done “something on purpose.”
Trump’s latest theories go against the consensus reached by his own director of national intelligence. “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” the DNI office wrote in a Thursday statement. Still, the president seemed to double down on his view during a Fox News town hall on Sunday night, during which he teased the release of “a very strong” and “very conclusive” report on the origins of the coronavirus.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, according to the New York Times, has taken the lead in pushing U.S. intelligence services to prove that coronavirus is a Chinese-lab-made contagion, appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday and boosted Trump’s unfounded line of attack. “There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began—we’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan,” he said, referring to the virology lab based in the central Chinese province. “Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories. These are not the first times that we have had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab.”
In addition to the U.S. Intelligence Community, the World Health Organization has also refuted this theory, and both concur that the coronavirus originated from animal-to-human transmission. When pressed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Pompeo attempted to have it both ways, siding with an unnamed group of “best experts” who “seem to think it was man-made,” before also siding with the DNI’s explicitly opposing view. “I agree with that,” Pompeo said of the DNI statement. “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said, I have no reason to believe that they got it wrong.”
But the U.S. intelligence apparatus’ public attempts to downplay these theories appear to clash with some behind-the-scenes opinions. Fox News anchor John Roberts reported over the weekend that a senior intelligence source conveyed an “agreement among most of the 17 Intelligence agencies that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan lab. The source stressed that the release is believed to be a MISTAKE, and was not intentional.” Roberts followed up the tweet by clarifying that the sources he spoke to acknowledged that “not all 17 intelligence agencies agree that the lab was the source of the virus because there is not yet a definitive ‘smoking gun.’ But confidence is high among 70-75% of the agencies.”