Trump suggests coming U.S. intel report blames China's coronavirus 'mistake' and cover-up
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During a Fox News town hall on Sunday, President Donald Trump hinted that a U.S. intelligence report would blame the coronavirus pandemic on China, saying that Beijing was “embarrassed” by it.
In between questions about the economy and other issues including the virus, the president made clear that COVID-19 originated in the Communist country.
Trump said he thinks that China’s leaders “made a mistake” regarding the virus’ release and attempted to cover it up while “treating the rest of the world badly” in allowing people to fly out of Wuhan city, the likely epicenter, to other parts of with world, which led to coronavirus’ spread.
“We’re going to be given a very strong report as to exactly what we think happened and I think it will be very conclusive,” he told Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
“Personally, I think they made a horrible mistake, and they didn’t want to admit it,” Trump said.
“We wanted to go in [to China] but they didn’t want us there, even the World Health Organization wanted to go in, they were admitted but much later, you know, not immediately,” he added.
“And my opinion is that they made a mistake, they tried to cover it, they tried to put it out, it’s like a fire, it’s really like trying to put out a fire,” he said. “They couldn’t put out the fire.
“What they really treated the world badly on, they stopped people going into China, but they didn’t stop people going into the USA and all over the world, so you could fly out of Wuhan, where the primary problem was, all of the problem essentially, also where the lab is, but you could fly out of Wuhan and you could go to different parts of the world but you couldn’t go to Beijing and you couldn’t go to any place in China,” Trump continued.
“So what’s that all about?” He added. “In other words, they knew they had a problem. I think they were embarrassed by the problem, very embarrassed.”
Trump also addressed previous reports claiming U.S. intelligence agencies ‘warned’ him early in January that coronavirus was becoming a major problem, suggesting he did not take the warning seriously.
In correcting the record, the president said he was informed about the potential pandemic but that U.S. intelligence agencies did not consider it a major threat at the time.
“On January 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” he said. "It was a brief conversation and it was only on January 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed down the country to China and we had 21 people in the room. I was the only one that wanted to close it down. Very good people in the room--very well-meaning.”
The network noted that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence corroborated the president’s claim that he wasn’t briefed until Jan. 23, and that at the time the virus did not appear to be too deadly.
Separately, State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” indicating the virus outbreak originated in a Chinese research laboratory, but wouldn’t provide further details.
“We have said from the beginning, this virus originated in Wuhan, China, I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said, in reference to the first SARS virus in 2002.
“These aren’t the first times that we have had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in Chinese labs. I can tell you that there’s a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” he said.
U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also indicated that the Pentagon’s intelligence agencies are investigating allegations that COVID-19 may have escaped from a Chinese lab.