On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell report: According to U.S. intelligence, several members of the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been hospitalized with symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 in November.
The report reignited the theory that the virus that causes COVID-19 — SARS-CoV-2 — leaked out of the Chinese laboratory as opposed to originating in a wet market.
The World Health Organization had originally dubbed this theory “extremely unlikely” in a report earlier this spring, and even mentioning it on Facebook would lead to the offending post being taken down.
It came to light in the days that followed that President Joe Biden’s administration had shut down an investigation into the origins of the virus by then-President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this spring; CNN reported it was due to “concerns about the quality of its work.”
But never fear: On Wednesday, Biden announced he was ordering a 90-day review of the origins of the virus, assuring he’d tasked the intelligence community earlier this year with “a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
“Here is their current position: ‘while two elements in the IC leans toward the [human contact] scenario and one leans more toward the [lab leak scenario] – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other,” Biden said.
Thus: “I have now asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.”
Later in the day, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre demonstrated why there isn’t a single reason to have faith in this review.
For instance, Jean-Pierre was asked why China would be willing to work with us on this investigation, given its nature.
The answer: The WHO is going to continue to work with China.
“Look, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, I think, 1.3 million lives globally; 600,000 American lives, about. And it’s imperative that we get to the bottom of just where the pandemic originated — not just for the purposes of understanding this pandemic, but the pandemics to come, as I’ve already, kind of, alluded to,” she said, according to a White House transcript.
“And so this is something that we’re going to, you know, continue to have conversations on. This is a global effort. It’s not just United States alone as we’re working with the WHO. This is our process here with the 90-day — that I just mentioned — review. But we’re just going to continue to work with WHO, and — and WHO is going to continue to — to work with China on this.”
Biden Principal Deputy Press Secretary on COVID origins investigation: “W.H.O. is going to continue to work with China” pic.twitter.com/Wb3LBA5il4
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 26, 2021
What would be their motivations for this?
“You know, this is — this is something that you have to ask the Chinese government, right?” Jean-Pierre said. “This is something that should be impor- — it should — should matter to them — but this is a question for them, as well.”
She was then asked if Biden had confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping about the origins of the disease.
“I’m not — I’m not going to go into details of private conversation that the president may have — may have had with President Xi,” the deputy press secretary said. “All I can say today is that we’re going to do this 90-day review, and this is what the president asked for, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Any penalties if they don’t cooperate?
“I’m not going to prejudge or, you know, make any preannouncements at this time,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’re going to go with the 90-day investigation and see where it takes us from there.”
She was pressed again later on whether or not there would be repercussions for China if they didn’t cooperate fully.
“Just to take a step back: Anything that kills 591,116 Americans, is that something — if another nation either was responsible or knew more than they were letting on — like you said, they weren’t letting the inspectors in and that hurt the overall investigation forever — what would the president do?” a reporter asked. “Would he do anything?”
“I mean, he’s doing something right now. He’s been — he asked his team, back in March — right? — to do — to do this — to look into this — look into the origins of COVID-19,” she responded.
“This is incredibly important, like his statement says,” Jean-Pierre added. “We need to find out how — where the COVID-19 originated from. So this, the president has been very clear. He actually, you know, spoke out about this back in 2020. So, this is not the first time we’ve heard his voice, his concern about the origins of COVID-19.
“So, we’re just taking the next step. I’m just not going to prejudge. I’m not going to make a statement until, you know — until we know what happens after this 90-day review.”
Principal Deputy Press Secretary can’t name any action Biden would take if China obstructs COVID investigation pic.twitter.com/POXPyFCzh5
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 26, 2021
What should be clear from the White House’s past statements, however, is that it’s going to be leaning on the WHO as a matter of precedent. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had made it clear on past occasions Biden will rely on “international bodies” to conduct the investigation and that they, not the United States, have jurisdiction here.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: Biden will rely on “international bodies” to investigate COVID’s origins pic.twitter.com/PnX2vj6P2X
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 25, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: if Biden confronts China’s Xi Jinping on COVID’s origins he’d be “leaping ahead of an actual international process” pic.twitter.com/gthbRGiM8a
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 24, 2021
So how effective were the WHO’s investigators, anyway?
Here’s Peter Daszak — the sole U.S. representative on the team that investigated the origin of SARS-CoV-2, according to Nature — talking to CBS News’ Leslie Stahl:
Biden wants the WHO to lead the investigation into whether COVID came from a Wuhan lab.
The WHO’s lead investigator admitted he took China’s word on COVID’s origins, saying:
“Well, what else can we do?” pic.twitter.com/ZVBXIkJ3nj
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 26, 2021
“We met with them. We said, ‘Do you audit the lab?’ And they said, ‘Annually.’ ‘Did it you audit it after the outbreak?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Was anything found?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you test your staff?’ ‘Yes.’ No one was –”
“But you’re just taking their word for it,” Stahl interjected.
“Well, what else can we do?” Daszak replied.
Well, perhaps not release a report in which your organization said the lab leak scenario was “extremely unlikely” when the Chinese government didn’t offer investigators the opportunity to ascertain that.
This is especially true when you consider that, as The Wall Street Journal noted, the Wuhan Institute “hasn’t shared raw data, safety logs and lab records on its extensive work with coronaviruses in bats, which many consider the most likely source of the virus.” This is who we’re deferring to?
Maybe Biden will break his own rules and be tough with Xi like he’s promised to be. However, he strikes a different note at times, and one that seems to be the one that’s more likely to win out here:
Now we know why Biden is always bragging about spending time with China’s Communist leader…
Xi Jinping is Biden’s best friend!? pic.twitter.com/qIYYxQImpS
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 21, 2021
It’s little wonder that #BeijingBiden was trending on Twitter:
— Shaughn_A (@Shaughn_A2) May 26, 2021
— Kat #AllLivesMatter (@writingkat63) May 26, 2021
There’ll be no threat of sanctions. No international pressure for the Wuhan Institute of Virology to open up its records. No WHO investigators on the ground given carte blanche to investigate what they see fit. None of that will happen.
What will come of the investigation, then? Will it just be what it looks like, the Biden administration taking the words of a feeble world body as if they were gospel, the same way it did before? For that matter, will we even know anything about what the review finds?
A reporter asked Jean-Pierre that very question — whether the administration would even commit to releasing its conclusions. “Well, we’ll have more to share after the 90 days,” she responded.
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