The Perfect Enemy | Republicans prepare for first COVID-19 origins hearing - The Hill
April 14, 2024

Wednesday’s hearing will feature testimony from Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under former President Trump; Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; and Nicholas Wade, a former editor for Science magazine as well as former editor of the science section of The New York Times.

All three of the GOP witnesses have said there is clear evidence the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab, a position that echoes the official committee description of the hearing.

“Mounting evidence continues to point to the virus originating from a lab leak,” the committee said in the hearing announcement.

Republicans said they are vindicated by reports that the Department of Energy (DOE) had concluded with “low confidence” that the virus escaped from a lab.

Further, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News the agency “has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chair of the House COVID-19 pandemic subcommittee, told CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday it was possible FBI and DOE officials would testify in front of the panel in the future.

Despite the certainty of House Republicans and their witnesses, the lab leak assessment is not the consensus among intelligence and scientific communities, which remain divided between the lab leak and “natural origin” possibilities.

There’s also uncertainty on whether the hearings, which are sure to be highly politicized, can cast fresh light on the issue.

While many scientists contend there are legitimate questions to be asked about the origins of the virus and the U.S. response, much of the effort in Congress to date has been framed around political point-scoring.

Experts fear the continued politicization of the issue, combined with China’s unwillingness to cooperate, diminishes the likelihood of finding out what really happened.

A bipartisan pandemic response bill was included in last year’s omnibus funding package, but it did not contain a provision that would have established an independent commission to investigate the government’s pandemic response and the virus’s origins.

The House is set to vote Friday on a bill that would require the director of national intelligence to declassify all information related to the virus’s origins. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week, but it’s not clear if it will get the same support among House Democrats. The White House also hasn’t indicated if President Biden will sign it.