- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2020

Calls on Capitol Hill are mounting for the State Department to investigate China’s alleged efforts to cover up the initial spread of the coronavirus outbreak that has swept the world, killing thousands in its wake.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is urging the department to consider launching a multilateral investigation with other democratic countries to look into any moves to cover up the coronavirus spread, which began in the Wuhan province in China last November.

“By causing a local outbreak to become a pandemic, their system, which is designed to censor anything that could be a threat to the regime, is putting millions of American lives at risk,” the Texas Republican wrote.

The U.S. has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker as of Friday, with more than 1,300 deaths from the virus.

Mr. McCaul claims China has launched a disinformation campaign about the virus “in an attempt to transfer blame to the United States and that is exacerbating this dire situation.

“The State Department has demonstrated considerable flexibility and ingenuity in refuting CCP’s various lies, and I urge you and your team to continue these efforts and to coordinate with willing allies,” he continued.

Earlier this week, Mr. Pompeo criticized “the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try to deflect from what has really taken place here.”

The ranking member was not alone Friday in his claims that China has moved to cover up the virus’ severity.

A pair of Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unveiled legislation that would call on China to publicly state there is no evidence that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, originated anywhere else but China, and condemns the government’s censorship of doctors and journalists during the early days of the outbreak.

“Chinese officials destroyed early COVID-19 test kits, suppressed information and refused international assistance,” Sen. Marcia Blackburn, Tennessee Republican said. “The Communist Party is so petrified of the truth that they kicked out journalists and fabricated a story of where the virus originated.”

“The Chinese Communist Party wasted precious weeks on a cynical coverup instead of containing the China virus at its epicenter,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, added. “Our first priority after protecting Americans must be holding China accountable for unleashing this plague on the world.”

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier Friday pledged in a phone call to cooperate in the battle against the coronavirus, a sign of easing tensions between the two nations.

“Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

“Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

Mr. Trump has refrained in recent days using the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe the outbreak that originated in Wuhan. He told Fox News he would stop using the term but didn’t regret it, noting that China blamed U.S. soldiers for starting the pandemic.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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