Representative Adam Schiff said Tuesday that President Trump has embraced the “false narrative” that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab in order to deflect from the administration’s “terrible mishandling” of the pandemic.
“We are told that we are currently informed on the latest intelligence, so I don’t know where they’re getting this apart from expressing their desire, or they’re withholding information from Congress,” Schiff, who serves as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said during an MSNBC appearance.
President Trump said Thursday that he has seen evidence that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
When pressed for details, Trump responded, “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have not made a determination as to whether the virus was naturally occurring and escaped from the lab, which advertised its research on coronaviruses in the months leading up the pandemic, but the intelligence community has concluded that the pathogen was not manmade.
The intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement Thursday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed Sunday that there is “enormous evidence” but agreed with the intelligence community’s assessment that the virus was not engineered.
“I think what they’re clearly trying to do is deflect attention away from the administration’s terrible mishandling of this virus,” said Schiff, a California Democrat.
Schiff added that after espousing a “false narrative” early on that the virus is not worse than the common flu, the administration has “chosen to go after China.”
“Look, there’s a lot to criticize China about,” he added. “They should have been far more transparent about the human to human transmission, and they did conceal things.”
However “there’s a danger in the administration either putting out theories that cannot be substantiated or deliberately provoking a fight during the middle of a pandemic,” Schiff said.
In December, local and national officials issued a gag order to labs in Wuhan after scientists there identified a new viral pneumonia, ordering them to halt tests, destroy samples, and conceal the news.
Schiff added that the president is doing a “tremendous disservice” to the American public by preventing Dr. Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, from testifying to Congress about the virus.
Trump said Tuesday that his administration blocked Fauci from testifying before House lawmakers about the virus due to “Trump haters” in the Democrat-led chamber.
“Apart and away from the glare of the president, he’s concerned that Dr. Fauci will be even more candid with the country about the dangers of this virus and feel more free to contradict the false claims that the president has been making. That’s a very poor reason to keep someone from Congress during a pandemic,” Schiff said.
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