President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he has seen information indicating with a high degree of confidence that the novel coronavirus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of the virus?” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked Trump.
“Yes, I have,” Trump responded. “And I think the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”
Reporter: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”
Trump said he couldn’t share what exactly gives him a high degree of confidence that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“I can’t tell you that,” he said. “I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
However, later in the same press conference Trump acknowledged that there are “a lot of theories” on the origins of the coronavirus, which has infected 3.2 million people worldwide and killed 233,000.
“We have people looking at it very, very strongly,” Trump said. “I think we’re going to have a very good answer, eventually. And China might even tell us. China may tell us.”
Trump’s comments came hours after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed in a statement Thursday that it is rigorously examining new information and intelligence to “determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
The ODNI also said it agrees with the widespread scientific consensus that the novel coronavirus “was not manmade or genetically modified,” a blow to the conspiracy theory that the virus could be a Chinese-manufactured bioweapon.
Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist who has been quoted as a coronavirus expert by The Washington Post and MSNBC, said Thursday that it’s possible that COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab.
Shi Zhengli, China’s leading virologist on bat-borne viruses, said in March that she lost sleep worrying that the virus could have leaked from her lab in Wuhan after she first learned of the virus in December.
Shi now tells those who share the concerns she once had to “shut their stinking mouths.”
A molecular biologist who has been quoted as a coronavirus expert by The Washington Post and MSNBC said Thursday in no uncertain terms that the novel coronavirus could have been unleashed due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
China’s top virologist on bat-borne viruses, Shi Zhengli, has sworn on her life that the virus did not leak from her Wuhan lab, saying that its spread was “nature punishing the human race for keeping uncivilized living habits.”
But Richard H. Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday that there is a real possibility that the virus entered the human population due to a laboratory accident.
When asked specifically if he believes the virus could have leaked from Shi’s lab in Wuhan, Ebright said: “Yes.”
“A denial is not a refutation,” Ebright said. “Especially not a denial based on ‘nature punishing the human race for keeping uncivilized living habits.’”
And while Shi now tells those who question whether her lab could be connected to the release of the coronavirus to “shut their stinking mouths,” she previously said she lost sleep worrying about the possibility that her lab in Wuhan could have been responsible for the virus’s release.
Shi, known by her colleagues as the “bat woman” because of the 16 years she has spent hunting for viruses in bat caves, told Scientific American in March that she frantically searched for any evidence that her laboratory’s records were mishandled upon learning of the virus’s outbreak in Wuhan in late December.
“Could they have come from our lab?” Shi recalled thinking.
“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China,” she noted, saying that her studies had shown that southern China posed the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping from animals to humans.
Shi said she breathed a sigh of relief when results came back showing that the sequences of the coronavirus did not match the viruses she and her team had sampled from bat caves.
“That really took a load off my mind,” Shi said. “I had not slept a wink for days.”
Shi and her colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported in early 2017 that after five years of surveying they had discovered 11 new strains of SARS-related viruses in horseshoe bats from China’s Yunnan Province. The virologist said at the time that the 11 strains contained all the genes to make a SARS coronavirus similar to that of the 2003 outbreak.
Shi contributed to a study published in February reporting that the novel coronavirus is 96.2% identical to a viral strain that was detected in horseshoe bats from the Yunnan Province.
However, two Chinese researchers noted in a separate paper in February that the horseshoe bats that are known to carry the nearly-identical viral strain live 600 miles away from Wuhan. The researchers also cited testimonies from nearly 60 people who lived in or visited Wuhan saying that the bat “was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market.”
“The killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan,” the two Chinese researchers noted in their paper, which was uploaded to Research Gate on Feb. 6.
The paper was removed from Research Gate on Feb. 14 or 15, according to internet archives.
“The content was uploaded to ResearchGate by a user who later removed it from the platform. Beyond this, we cannot disclose information about individuals who use our platform,” Research Gate spokesman Dan Noyes told the DCNF.
The paper’s lead researcher, Botao Xiao, didn’t return the DCNF’s emails on Thursday seeking comment.
Ebright, the Rutgers University molecular biologist, told Beijing-based news outlet Caixin Global in February that while there is “no basis to suspect the virus was engineered,” the available data indicates that the virus’s introduction into human populations could be attributed to either natural causes or to a laboratory mishap.
The Washington Post and MSNBC have quoted Ebright saying that theories about the virus being a bioweapon should be “firmly excluded,” but neither outlet included his belief that the possibility that the virus entered the human population through a lab accident “cannot–and should not–be dismissed.”
Shi has furiously denied that the novel coronavirus could have leaked from her lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“The novel 2019 coronavirus is nature punishing the human race for keeping uncivilized living habits. I, Shi Zhengli, swear on my life that it has nothing to do with our laboratory,” she wrote on a Chinese social messaging app in early February, according to Caixin Global. “I advise those who believe and spread rumors from harmful media sources … to shut their stinking mouths.”
Deadly viruses have a history of escaping from Chinese laboratories.
The SARS virus escaped twice from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing in 2004, one year after the virus was initially contained.
The Chinese government has been widely criticized for misleading the world about the novel coronavirus outbreak from its earliest stages.
One of the first doctors in Wuhan to raise the alarm about the spread of a SARS-like virus in the city was detained by police in December and told to “stop making false comments.”
That doctor, Li Wenliang, died from coronavirus in February.
Another Chinese doctor, Ai Fen, claimed she was silenced by her bosses when she tried to warn about the virus during its early stages. Ai’s whereabouts as of Sunday are currently unknown, according to 60 Minutes Australia, sparking fears that she has been detained.
And on Wednesday a top Chinese health official announced that the country will begin counting coronavirus cases from patients that show no symptoms, a tactic acknowledgment that Beijing had underreported its official tally of known coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas told the DCNF on Wednesday it is wholly appropriate to question whether the coronavirus outbreak originated from labs in Wuhan that were studying coronaviruses.
“The reason I have raised these questions from the very beginning is because of China’s statements and their actions,” Cotton told the DCNF. “After concealing the virus for many weeks in December and then minimizing its severity for most of January, they then peddle an origin story about the food market in Wuhan.”
“Given their dishonesty and the proximity of these labs, which we know were working with coronaviruses, it is only reasonable and responsible for us to ask the question and demand the answers.”
This post has been updated with comments from Research Gate.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren hired a Planned Parenthood lobbyist to a key role in her presidential campaign Tuesday, just one day after Warren announced a plan that would “end lobbying as we know it.”
Warren unveiled an anti-corruption plan Monday that would introduce a “cooling off” period for lobbyists before they can serve in government roles and would prohibit active lobbyists from donating to political campaigns, a practice Warren called “legalized bribery.”
“The fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters,” Warren’s plan states. “But when lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it.”
The next day, Kimberly Diaz Scott, who registered as a lobbyist for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates as recently as January 2019, announced that she was leaving the organization to head up Warren’s campaign in Florida.
“I won’t be far from the movement, as I’m humbled and proud to announce my transition as the Florida State Director for Warren for President, assuring that we will continue to fight like hell to elect a brilliant leader who will work to protect the health, safety and future of ALL people,” Diaz wrote, the Miami Herald reported. “2020 is not for the rich or selfish, 2020 is for us.”
Diaz first registered as a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood in 2015, according to Florida’s Lobbyist Registration Office.
Warren’s plan said lobbyists were effectively bribing politicians by donating to politicians, but her own political campaigns have received at least $95,000 from lobbyists between 2012 and 2018, CNBC reported.
The plan would also enact a “cooling off” period for lobbyists, such as Diaz, from entering government jobs to ensure they’re hired for their expertise, not their connections.
“Under my proposal, current lobbyists won’t be able to take government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when the hiring is in the national interest,” Warren’s plan states. “Corporate lobbyists will have to wait at least 6 years — no exceptions, and no waivers.”
The restrictions proposed by Warren would apply to “all lobbyists,” meaning that they would presumably apply to Diaz.
The Warren campaign did not immediately return an inquiry from the Daily Caller News Foundation asking if her proposed lobbying restrictions would apply to Diaz.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and her top aide are no longer board members of the outside PAC credited with orchestrating her political rise, according to a corporate document filed Friday to a Washington, D.C., agency.
The New York Democrat and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, joined the board of Justice Democrats in December 2017, according to the political action committee’s website. It also said the two held “legal control over the entity” at the same time it was playing a key role in supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign prior to her shock victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in June 2018.
Attorneys for Ocasio-Cortez said she was removed from Justice Democrats’ board in June 2018, but she was listed an “entity governor” of the PAC as recently as March 14, according to corporate filings, The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.
Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were officially removed from Justice Democrats’ board on March 15, according to a corporate document filed that day to the Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
It’s unclear why it took Justice Democrats more than eight months to formally remove Ocasio-Cortez from its board. The PAC did not respond to a request for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez never disclosed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that she and Chakrabarti controlled Justice Democrats while it simultaneously supported her primary campaign.
If the FEC finds that her campaign and the PAC were operating in affiliation, it could result in “massive reporting violations” or potentially even jail time for Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith previously told TheDCNF. Another former FEC commissioner, Hans von Spakovsky, wrote in a March 10 Fox News op-ed that he believes there’s sufficient evidence to “justify opening a criminal investigation” into Ocasio-Cortez.
Alexandra Rojas and Demond Drummer replaced Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti on Justice Democrats’ board. Both have close ties to the congresswoman.
Rojas, Justice Democrats’ executive director, was a field organizer for the Ocasio-Cortez campaign in 2018 while she was also serving as campaign director for the PAC. Chakrabarti preceded Rojas as executive director.
Drummer is the executive director of New Consensus, a nonprofit group that played a key role in developing the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal was written in a single weekend in December by New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez staffers, along with the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy organization.
“We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together,” Chakrabarti told The New Yorker in January. “We looked up how to write resolutions.”