FBI director accuses China of trying to ‘thwart and obfuscate’ Covid origin probe

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

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

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News host Bret Baier.

“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing, and that’s unfortunate for everybody,” Wray added.

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

The director’s comments come after the U.S. Energy Department concluded with “low confidence” that the Covid pandemic “likely” originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, according to a classified report delivered to key lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

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

Wray’s comments Tuesday came after Baier noted that the Energy Department had cited the FBI’s earlier 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 one U.S. intelligence agency had assessed with moderate confidence that the virus infected humans after a lab-associated incident; four other agencies assessed with low confidence that the virus emerged naturally. The report did not name the agencies, but intelligence officials have told NBC News that the FBI was the agency with moderate confidence.

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

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

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

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

He said “there’s not a whole lot of details I can share that aren’t classified,” but “our work related to this continues.”

The Energy Department’s classified report maintains the consensus that Covid was not the result of a Chinese bioweapon, a U.S. official said. In its assessment, the Energy Department also described the “likely” laboratory-related leak as an “accident,” the official added.

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

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

Lawmakers said Tuesday it was important to find out the origins of the virus.

“The main reason to understand where this pandemic came from is so that we can prevent a future pandemic from happening. It’s not to play gotcha,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who chairs a House select committee on China. “But [China] needs to be held accountable for their cover-up.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said, “China obviously is 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 can prevent the next one.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said a confirmation of the lab leak theory would “have an impact” on U.S. policy.

“There has been an attempt to discredit that theory of origin, which I’ve never understood. To me we should want to know where the origin was. And we should also protest to the country, China in this case, that trying to cover this up, because that delayed our ability to respond to the pandemic,” she said.

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