Prominent Trump administration coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir testified Tuesday the "most likely" origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is an accidental lab leak in Wuhan.
"I assess that the most likely origin was an accidental infection of laboratory personnel from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with secondary transmission to the local population and subsequent spread to hundreds of millions of people around the world," Giroir told House Republicans during a hearing by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Giroir's opening statement conflicted with the initial China narrative of animal to human spread at the Wuhan wet market, which was just miles away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, noting evidence now shows "Wuhan wet market was a site of secondary spread."
"There is now an increasing body of circumstantial evidence pointing to a lab leak origin of the virus," Giroir, who was in charge of testing on the Trump White House's COVID-19 task force, added. "The bottom line is: I believe it's just too much of a coincidence that a worldwide pandemic caused by a novel bat coronavirus that cannot be found in nature started just a few miles away from a secretive laboratory doing potentially dangerous research on bat coronaviruses.
"Sometimes, the most obvious explanation is indeed the correct one."
Giroir, a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, also revealed the World Health Organization did not have a U.S. member on the board at the time of the outbreak because his nomination was blocked by Senate Democrats.
"When this pandemic first emerged in China and began spreading around the world, the only eligible nation that did not have a member on the WHO Executive Board was the United States," Giroir said. "That is because after I was nominated for the Executive Board by President [Donald] Trump in November 2018, my nomination was repeatedly blocked by Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and his Democrat colleagues and I was not confirmed. And thus the U.S. did not have the ability at the Executive Board level until May 2020."
An investigation into the origins of the SARs-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 must be conducted by a bipartisan group because the WHO is under China control in China and scientists have conflict of interests that might impact an honest investigation, Giroir added.
"It is essential that Congress provides leadership for a comprehensive, transparent, and unbiased investigation to determine the most likely origin of the virus, whether the NIH funded, directly or indirectly, or approved of, explicitly or tacitly, potentially dangerous research within the Wuhan lab, and what the U.S. can do to minimize the possibility of future pandemics and enable rapid global containment of any suspicious infectious outbreak," he concluded.
Another Trump administration official David Asher, who led the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance investigation into COVID-19's origins, said the State Department investigation found China "engaged in activities with dual-use applications, which raise concerns regarding its compliance with Article I of the Biological Weapons Convention."
"Whether the Chinese did this deliberately or not in terms of creating this pathogen — I think the chances are they were working on it and it was funded by the military, I'm very confident of that — but whether they released it or not deliberately or just had an accident, I think the answer is they probably had an accident, but that doesn't matter, because they allowed it to be weaponized in the wake of its release," Asher said.
"What we found truly disturbed us: that the Chinese were working on a military-supported program, which they did not declare under the Biological Weapons Convention — so they lied," he added. "It involved coronaviruses, which they said they weren't working on at the Wuhan institute."
Dr. Steven Quay and Richard Muller, scientists who earlier this month wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal which contended "the most compelling reason to favor the lab leak hypothesis is firmly based in science," also testified.
"I believe the evidence conclusively establishes that the COVID pandemic was not a natural process but instead came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and that it has the fingerprints of genetic manipulation through a process called gain-of-function research," Quay said.
Muller, a University of California, Berkeley physics professor said the "whistleblower" on the origins of the virus is the genetic trail of the virus itself.
"Some people say we will never know, not until China confesses or unless there is a whistleblower," Muller said. "Well, we have a whistleblower. It was the virus itself. It came here. It came out of China. It came to us, and it carried with it genetic information."
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