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Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded Congress investigate a potential Chinese cover-up of a coronavirus outbreak from a lab in Wuhan in the same way lawmakers probed Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
“The Chinese communist government has been lying to its own people and to the world. The Chinese response to the Wuhan Virus was not mere inaction or incompetence, but a malicious and intentional effort to cover-up the outbreak and prevent the world from taking it seriously until it was too late to stop the spread,” Sessions said in a statement on Tuesday. “Worse yet, the Chinese communist government continues to lie about the virus today. They must be held accountable, and we must get to the bottom of exactly what they knew, when they knew it, and the actions they took that plunged the world into this pandemic.”
Sessions — who resigned from the Trump administration after sparring with the president over his decision to recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential Russian election interference — called for the creation of a congressional select committee, which has opened similar probes in the past.
The Trump administration has insisted in recent weeks that they have credible evidence that the coronavirus resulted after an accidental release from a lab, but intelligence officials have said they are unable to reach that conclusion.
Instead, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said it is confident the virus was not manmade but are unsure whether it is connected to the lab in Wuhan or if it was transmitted from animals to humans.
U.S. officials have ruled out the possibility the virus was created by China to be used as a bioweapon. Some said the pathogen may have escaped from the lab amid China’s efforts to identify and combat the virus either with the same or greater capabilities than the United States.
In a show of defiance, China has rebuffed U.S. requests to allow inspectors access to the lab. Both China and the World Health Organization — which has also come under siege — denied that they downplayed the severity of the virus in the initial days of the outbreak.
Opponents of Trump have criticized his lamentations about the origins of the virus in China as a tactic to distract from the administration’s own actions early on in the pandemic.