WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are pushing for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to declassify documents from a research facility in China relating to the origins of the coronavirus.
Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, the top Republican on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, along with other GOP lawmakers, wrote a letter to Blinken requesting documents be declassified to help them investigate “the possibility of an accidental laboratory leak.”
The documents they are requesting include those related to a fact sheet the State Department under the Trump administration released in January that reported collaborations that the Chinese military had with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, such as classified research and laboratory animal experiments.
“The WIV has been a major focus for the U.S. government and the World Health Organization (WHO) in examining the origins of COVID-19 and the possibility of a laboratory leak,” the lawmakers wrote. “In addition, the release of these documents from the department could help to refute contradictory statements that have been made regarding the possibility of a laboratory leak from the WIV.”
A joint report by the World Health Organization and China published in March did not establish how or when the coronavirus began spreading.
During an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” in April, Blinken said that it’s important to find out the origins of the virus.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “We need to do that precisely, so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again.”
The top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, and Subcommittee on Health Republican leader Brett Guthrie of Kentucky also signed the letter. Energy and Commerce handles much of the health policy legislation in the House.
Several conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus have emerged, some peddled by Republican lawmakers. One theory is that the coronavirus was crafted in a lab and purposely released.
At a Senate hearing on the COVID-19 response in early May, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease, pushed back on Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who aired the conspiracy theory that the National Institute of Health sent funds to a research facility in Wuhan, China, to create a virus and release it to the world.
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci said at the hearing.
He added that it was important to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and said he was “fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China.”
PolitiFact reported that scientists who have studied the SARS-CoV-2 virus largely say it resembles naturally occurring viruses, though some researchers are devoting more attention to the theory it might have leaked from a lab.