Republican rep criticizes government for hiding lab report supporting COVID leak theories and demanding more answers as they expand virus origins
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory study said lab leak theory was plausible, according to report
- It recommended further research in May 2020, when the scientific consensus was that COVID-19 arose naturally
- Rep. Morgan Griffith said China’s lack of transparency wasn’t the only problem getting to the truth
- He said lawmakers needed more access to information from the US government to understand the full picture
Republicans are demanding to learn more about a classified report from an influential government lab that recommended as early as May last year that more research was needed into whether the COVID-19 pandemic was leaking from a Chinese research facility.
The report found the hypothesis of a lab leak plausible, and its conclusions were used by the State Department in investigating the origins of the pandemic in the final months of the Trump administration, according to the report. Wall Street Journal.
It was produced by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a California biodefense research facility largely funded by the Department of Energy.
Republicans on Capitol Hill investigating the origins of the pandemic want to learn more about the report. And have pressured the Department of Energy for details.
Representative Morgan Griffith, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said part of the problem in uncovering the truth was the Chinese government’s lack of openness.
“But exposing the truth need not depend on a renewed commitment to transparency and accountability in Beijing,” he said.
“Our country’s diplomatic, security and public health authorities have information about the origin of COVID-19.
The (above) secret intelligence unit at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab produced the report on May 27, 2020, but it didn’t reach the State Department until October last year.
President Biden has ordered the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to find out whether the novel coronavirus arose naturally or from a laboratory. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute for Virology can be seen in this February 2017 file photo
‘Rare’ genome sequence suggests virus was man-made
Two US experts have written a scathing essay stating that science strongly suggests the novel coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory.
The claim was submitted by Drs Stephen Quay, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics Inc, and Richard Muller, professor of physics at the University of California Berkeley, in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
In the op-ed, the men say their evidence lies in genome sequencing, or analyzing the DNA, of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
There are 36 segments of DNA — made up of three-letter “words” — that viruses use to make an amino acid known as L-arginine.
L-arginine helps make proteins, but is also often used in so-called gain of function research, which alters viruses to make them more transmissible and deadlier.
The new virus contains a segment called CGG-CGG, which is considered rare even in experiments where researchers try to manipulate the virus.
Even more telling, this combination has never been found naturally in any other type of coronavirus, including SARS and MERS, both cousins of the new virus.
“A virus simply cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence is not present in another virus,” Quay and Muller wrote.
‘The combination CGG-CGG has never been found naturally. That means the usual method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, can’t work here.’
“None of them may have the full picture, and some of them may not have the capacity to analyze the data they have on their own.”
He identified the investigation into the origins of COVID-19 launched by the House Energy Commerce Committee. Republicans had also requested information and secret briefings from the Departments of State and Homeland Security about any relevant material they have.
Most scientists still believe that a natural crossover from an animal host remains the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID-19.
But the classified study will raise new questions about why more hasn’t been done to investigate the possibility that it may have leaked from a lab.
People familiar with the report said it was prepared by Lawrence Livermore’s Z Division, which is tasked with making technical assessments of foreign weapons capabilities.
It has reportedly used genetic analysis of the coronavirus for some of its conclusions.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, however, questioned its methodology.
“I’ve seen the report. I think it’s wrong on a number of levels,” he told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
The existence of the study was previously reported by Sinclair Broadcasting and Vanity Fair, who said it was used by a State Department investigation last fall.
But researchers said the Department of Energy, which oversees the Lawrence Livermore lab, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the State Department from talking to the report’s authors.
David Asher, who led the investigation, said he believed the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the lab at the center of the controversy, may have conducted weapons research.
Some of their findings were released in a State Department factsheet published in January.
It emphatically did not rule out the possibility that the coronavirus was part of a weapons program.
“Despite presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with the Chinese military,” it said.
‘The WIV has been conducting secret research on behalf of the Chinese army since 2017, including animal testing.’