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Trump Knew: Intelligence Agencies Examine Anew Reports of Early COVID-19 Infections in Wuhan Lab (5 Cartoons)

  U.S. intelligence agencies are examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory were seriously ill in 2019 a month befo...

 U.S. intelligence agencies are examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory were seriously ill in 2019 a month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, according to U.S. government sources who cautioned that there is still no proof the disease originated at the lab.

A still-classified U.S. intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) researchers became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, sources familiar with U.S. intelligence reporting and analysis said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It remained unclear whether these researchers were hospitalized or what their symptoms were, one of the sources said. The virus first appeared in Wuhan and then spread worldwide.

“We don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion about the origins” of the coronavirus, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a news briefing on Monday. “We need data. We need an independent investigation. And that’s exactly what we’ve been calling for.”

Information about the researchers was published in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Monday it was “completely untrue” that three WIV staff members had fallen ill.

The origin of the virus is hotly contested. In a report issued in March written jointly with Chinese scientists, a World Health Organization-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.”

The U.S. intelligence community “hasn’t ruled out either theory,” one official U.S. source said. Intelligence reporting about possible November infections among Wuhan Institute employees “can’t be dismissed” by U.S. researchers, the source added.

The hypothesis that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab has been promoted on some conservative websites, and by some Republicans in the U.S. Congress. U.S. intelligence agencies have not reached their own determination on the cause.

The U.S. State Department published a fact sheet on COVID-19 and the Wuhan lab on Jan. 15, 2020, five days before Trump left office, based in part on information in the classified report, sources said. Trump as president referred to the pathogen as the “China virus” and the “China plague.”

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