President Biden on Wednesday ordered the U.S. intelligence community to conduct a rapid-turnaround investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, following a purported decision by his decision to spike a similar probe launched by the Trump administration.
Biden made the announcement via the White House website, stating that intelligence officials have been pursuing several possibilities for the virus’s origin, including “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden said in the announcement.
The directive comes after a CNN report Tuesday saying a probe under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic had been ended by his administration sometime after February.
Pompeo launched an inquiry into the origins of SARS-Cov-2 last fall amid questions on whether China’s biological weapons program could have had a role in the pandemic’s origin.
“Even though this discrete project has concluded, the State Department continues to work with the interagency to look into the COVID origins issue,” the State Department confirmed to CNN.
The project was shut down “over concerns about the quality of its work,” CNN said, citing three undisclosed sources.
“I am confident that we will find that the evidence that we have seen to date is consistent with a lab leak and I’m convinced that’s what we’ll see,” Pompeo said this week on Fox News.
Prior to Biden’s Wednesday announcement, Capitol Hill Republicans began pushing for answers to the origin questions.
Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2021 to Congress that would force intelligence on the matter by legislation if not completed by other agencies.
“I think we’re gonna get to the bottom of it,” Braun said on the John Solomon Reports podcast. “It’s just a question of, will we need a bill to do it? I don’t even think we’re going to need that because I think there’s going to be stuff coming forward that might flush it out without having to force it legislatively.”
China has said the virus, which has killed roughly 3.4 million people worldwide, started in humans at market in the city of Wuhan that sold exotic, wild animal meat. The market is in the same city as the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
A Chinese spokesperson recently accused the U.S. of “hyping up” the Wuhan lab leak theory.