It is “more likely than not” that COVID-19 originated at a lab in Wuhan, China, and did not develop naturally, a key GOP lawmaker said Sunday in another clear sign of the growing momentum behind the once-dismissed lab-leak theory.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Michael McCaul said Chinese efforts to destroy evidence and hide information related to the early days of the coronavirus will make it difficult for U.S. and international investigators to ever learn the full truth.
But the Texas Republican said he backs the Biden administration’s recent directive to the U.S. intelligence community to redouble its efforts on the issue and report back within 90 days.
“I do think it’s more likely than not that it emerged out of a lab, most likely accidentally,” said Mr. McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This is the worst cover-up in human history that we’ve seen, resulting in 3.5 million deaths and economic devastation around the globe.”
“Time and time again we’re seeing this cover-up” by China, Mr. McCaul said.
In his own statement last week, President Biden said the U.S. and its allies will press China for a clear accounting of what happened in Wuhan.
“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump and GOP allies repeatedly pointed to the possibility of a Chinese lab leak but were often ridiculed as conspiracy theorists. Mr. Trump said the World Health Organization was too weak on China to get a real answer.
The notion of a lab mishap has gained mainstream credence of late, particularly after reports researchers at a Wuhan virology lab got so sick in November 2019 they were hospitalized — about two months before the coronavirus was confirmed.
Former Trump administration officials said their early efforts to investigate the lab theory were hampered by prominent scientists who dismissed the idea, and by institutional barriers that made it difficult to uncover the facts.
“I think this is more of an institutional shortcoming,” Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser to Mr. Trump, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.