The White House scrambled this week to readdress the coronavirus lab leak theory, despite canceling a State Department investigation that began under former President Donald Trump
White House press secretary Jen Psaki began the week by dismissing the idea of an investigation led by the United States — placing little or no stock in a report from the Wall Street Journal reporting that individuals from a lab in Wuhan, China, were hospitalized with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
“We have no means of confirming that or denying that,” Psaki said, inexplicably claiming the Wall Street Journal story was not based on “a report from the United States.”
When a reporter noted that the story was based on a “previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.” Psaki replied, “I don’t have anything more on a U.S. intelligence report from here.”
Psaki directed attention instead to the international investigation of the origin of the coronavirus by the World Health Organization.
“What we can’t do, and what I would caution anyone doing, is leaping ahead of an actual international process,” she said in response to questions about the lab leak theory. “We don’t have enough data and information to jump to a conclusion at this point in time.”
From Psaki’s point of view, the White House trusted the World Health Organization’s investigation — and the hope that China would cooperate.
“We need that data, we need that information from the Chinese government,” she said Monday.
On Tuesday, Psaki again stressed that President Biden was waiting for the Chinese to participate in an investigation run by the “international community.”
“He believes the Chinese need to do more to put forward data, to be more transparent,” Psaki said. “And in the second phase of this effort, he’s certainly hopeful that will be the case.”
On Wednesday, however, CNN broke the story that Biden actually shut down a State Department investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, just as more reports were detailing additional evidence to support the lab leak theory.
That suggested Biden had no interest in pursuing the coronavirus lab leak theory — or in the worst-case scenario, was actively trying to cover it up.
The White House reacted by issuing a carefully worded statement Wednesday calling for the intelligence community to “redouble” their investigation in the origin of the virus, and even releasing declassified information about the effort.
The White House also sidelined Psaki from the daily briefing, sending deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to the podium to defend the administration’s timeline.
Jean-Pierre argued the administration was always leading an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, and the timing had nothing to do with recent reporting.
Biden, she claimed, knew about the growing evidence of the lab leak theory a month ago, and was always working to expose the truth. The timing just happened to coincide with the intelligence community’s declassification timeline.
“You know, one of the reasons that we’re doing it now is because classified information takes time to declassify,” Jean-Pierre said. “And so that is a process that takes some time. And so, now we are — we are sharing that information with you all.”
Reporters in the briefing on Wednesday did not ask about the administration shutting down the State Department investigation, as they focused only on Biden’s new call for the intelligence community to “redouble” their efforts.
On Thursday, Psaki again argued Biden was always investigating the origin of the coronavirus and that Wednesday’s announcement was merely a question of timing.
“I would say it was just a process of declassifying and then a decision made to extend the investigation,” she told reporters on a trip to Cleveland, Ohio on Air Force One.
Biden, she argued, also felt the need to clear up and make public the current status of the investigation, prompting him to issue a statement.
“He felt that it was important, given a lot of confusion out there, to make public not only what the IC (intelligence community) had done, but also to expand the investigation for 90 days,” she said.
Psaki added that the Biden White House was also reacting to reports the Chinese had no intention of cooperating with the World Health Organization for further investigation.
That is a dramatic turnaround from the talking points on Monday, in which the White House urged Americans not to “jump to conclusions” about the coronavirus lab leak theory and instead trust the World Health Organization to investigate the truth.
The White House has still not explained why they shut down the State Department investigation, and why Biden and his public health officials previously dismissed any questions about the coronavirus lab leak theory.