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Biden Admin Does About-Face After Months of Playing Down Lab Leak Theory Promoted by Trump

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President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including any possibility the virus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

After months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is now putting pressure on China to be more open about the outbreak.

Biden on Wednesday asked U.S. intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days.

He directed U.S. national laboratories to assist with the investigation and the intelligence community to prepare a list of specific queries for the Chinese government. He called on China to cooperate with international probes into the origins of the pandemic.

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus emerged due to a laboratory accident rather than through human contact with an infected animal in Wuhan, China.

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The theory had until now been roundly dismissed by many establishment media outlets and even the World Health Organization.

Last fall, when Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed a Chinese virologist who argued the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab, PolitiFact called the claim “inaccurate and ridiculous” and gave it a “Pants on Fire” rating. The fact-check was retracted last week.

Biden in a statement said the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around two scenarios — a lab leak and natural animal-to-human transmission — but “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”

He revealed that two agencies lean toward the animal link and “one leans more toward” the lab theory, “each with low or moderate confidence.”

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“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Biden said.

His statement came after months of the administration endeavoring to avoid public discussion of the lab leak theory and privately suggesting it was far-fetched.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement on Thursday putting forth two “likely scenarios” in which the virus started: “either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident.”

The State Department, which ended one Trump-era probe into the Chinese lab theory this spring, said it was continuing to cooperate with other government agencies and pressed China to cooperate with the world.

“China’s position that their part in this investigation is complete is disappointing and at odds with the rest of the international community that is working collaboratively across the board to bring an end to this pandemic and improve global health security,” spokesman Ned Price said.

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China on Thursday accused the Biden administration of playing politics in calling for a renewed investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first detected in China in late 2019.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Biden’s order showed the U.S. “does not care about facts and truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing.”

In another sign of shifting attitudes on the origins of the virus, the Senate approved two Wuhan lab-related amendments without opposition, attaching them to a largely unrelated bill to increase U.S. investments in innovation.

One of the amendments, from Republican Sen. Rand Paul, would block U.S. funding of Chinese research on enhancing the severity or transmissibility of a virus. Paul has been critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and aggressively questioned him at a recent Senate hearing over the work in China.

The other amendment was from GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and would prevent any funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Both were approved without roll call votes as part of the broader bill that is still under debate in the Senate.

As for the origin of the pandemic, Fauci said Wednesday that he and most others in the scientific community “believe that the most likely scenario is that this was a natural occurrence, but no one knows that 100 percent for sure.”

“And since there’s a lot of concern, a lot of speculation and since no one absolutely knows that, I believe we do need the kind of investigation where there’s open transparency and all the information that’s available, to be made available, to scrutinize,” Fauci said at a Senate hearing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the White House supports a new World Health Organization investigation in China, but she added that an effective probe “would require China finally stepping up and allowing access needed to determine the origins.”

Biden still held out the possibility that a firm conclusion may never be reached, given the Chinese government’s refusal to fully cooperate with international investigations.

“The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19,” he said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, without mentioning the Biden order, accused unnamed political forces of playing a blame game.

“Smear campaign and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of ‘lab leak’ is resurfacing,” the embassy said in a statement posted Wednesday on its website.

Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior coronavirus advisor, said Tuesday that the world needs to “get to the bottom … whatever the answer may be.”

“We need a completely transparent process from China. We need the WHO to assist in that matter,” Slavitt said. “We don’t feel like we have that now.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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