FBI director accuses China of trying to ‘obfuscate and obscure’ investigation into Covid origins

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FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that Beijing has obstructed efforts by the US and others to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.

In an interview with Fox News, Wray said that the FBI believes that COVID probably originated from a “likely laboratory incident” in Wuhan, but that the Chinese government has essentially interfered with the agency’s ongoing investigation. .

“The FBI has assessed for a long time that the origin of the pandemic is a possible laboratory incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News host Brett Baier.

“I would just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, is doing its best to sabotage and disrupt the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing ” are doing, and it’s unfortunate for everyone,” Ray said.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The director’s comments came after the US Department of Energy concluded with “low confidence” that the Covid pandemic “likely” originated from a lab leak in Wuhan, a classified report given to key lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees said. According to.

Two sources told NBC News on Sunday that lawmakers were briefed about the report last month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. This news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Ray’s comments came after Baier noted Tuesday that the Department of Energy cited earlier FBI findings in its report.

A report commissioned by President Joe Biden on the origins of COVID, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in August 2021, showed that a US intelligence agency assessed with moderate confidence that the virus originated after an incident involving a laboratory had infected humans; Four other agencies assessed with less confidence that the virus emerged naturally. The agencies were not named in the report, but intelligence officials told NBC News that the FBI was the agency with medium confidence.

Sources have said that the CIA is one of the two intelligence agencies that are undecided on the origin of the virus.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said earlier on Tuesday that China has “always been open and transparent” about Covid.

Mao had previously criticized the Energy Department’s assessment, pointing to a 2021 report by a WHO mission to Wuhan that found it “extremely likely” that the virus originated in a laboratory. The US and other countries have criticized that report, saying that China had withheld the data.

Ray touted the work of FBI investigators in the Fox News interview, noting that they include virologists and microbiologists.

“There aren’t a lot of details that I can share that aren’t classified,” he said, but “our work with that is ongoing.”

A US official said the classified report from the Department of Energy maintains the consensus that Covid was not the result of a Chinese biological weapon. In its assessment, the Department of Energy described the “likely” lab-related leak as an “accident,” the official said.

The Department of Energy is one of 18 government departments and agencies that make up the US intelligence community.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy said in a statement over the weekend that the agency “continues to support the thorough, careful and purposeful work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19 as directed by the President.”

Lawmakers said on Tuesday that it was important to trace the origin of the virus.

“The main reason is to understand where this pandemic came from so that we can prevent future pandemics from happening. It’s not about playing gotchas,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who is a House Select Committee on China. Presides over the committee. “But [China] must be held accountable for their cover-up.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said, “China is clearly very threatened by this,” but “the lab leak story is not anti-Chinese. It’s just — you’re trying to get to the bottom of it so you Might stop the next one.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said confirmation of the lab leak theory “will have an impact” on US policy.

“There has been an attempt to discredit the theory of origin, which I have never been able to understand. To me we must know where the origin was. And we must also oppose the country, China, in this matter, which is trying to cover up trying.” It’s up because it delayed our ability to respond to the pandemic,” he said.

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