Former President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed that they believe COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in comments aired in a documentary Tuesday.
“I think that it escaped from the lab through incompetence,” Trump told Australian Sky News host Sharri Markson in the documentary “What Really Happened in Wuhan,” available on Fox Nation. He does not think the virus’s release was on purpose since that would “essentially be war” and China suffered too.
Asked if U.S. officials spoke to Chinese defectors from the lab, Trump said he could not discuss that. “Some of the intelligence is classified and I can’t talk about it,” he told Markson.
There is “compelling intelligence” the virus originated from the lab but it has not been declassified because it would endanger the people who shared it and expose other sources, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in the documentary.
Nonetheless, the time is right for the Biden administration to declassify appropriate intelligence to put more pressure on China, he added.
A classified report by U.S. intelligence agencies requested by President Biden and completed in August yielded “inconclusive” results about the origins of COVID-19.
Pompeo said “there were 14 American diplomats on the ground in Wuhan at this time who were watching and observing …. I hope one day we will be able to get that information out more broadly.”
Based on the intelligence he has seen, the first cluster of COVID-19 occurred at the Wuhan lab, Pompeo said.
The World Health Organization failed at its main mission of preventing a global pandemic because it is beholden to China, according to Pompeo.
“They were late, they were wrong,” Trump said of the WHO, which the U.S. left during his administration and rejoined under the Biden administration. “They were like a mouthpiece for China.”
Peter Daszak, the only U.S. citizen on the WHO-led investigation of the origins of COVID-19, should have recused himself from the mission given he worked with the Wuhan lab using U.S. funding, Pompeo opined in the documentary.
In one exchange, Markson asks Trump what evidence convinced him the virus most likely came from a lab.
“I started hearing stories … that there were lots of body bags outside of the lab,” Trump says. “I heard that a long time ago, and if they did in fact have body bags that was one little indication, wasn’t it?” But when Markson asks if the intelligence community provided that information, Trump says he doesn’t know where it came from, and Pompeo would not address whether the claim was accurate.
David Asher, who led a State Department investigation during the Trump administration into the origins of COVID-19, said the U.S. intelligence community had collected information in November 2019, not analyzed until a year later, that showed three workers at the Wuhan lab fell sick with Covid-like symptoms. If acted on more quickly, it could have stemmed the spread of the virus, he told Markson. Asked if the U.S. should review if the intelligence was properly handled, Pompeo agreed it should.
The Wuhan lab experienced a blackout of cellphone and signals activity in October 2019 for two weeks, according to the documentary. At the same time, it increased security and issued a tender to replace its air filtration system, Markson reported. A month earlier, its database containing 22,000 coronavirus samples was taken offline.
Sir Richard Dearlove, who headed the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency MI6 from 1999 to 2004, said in the documentary that the French built the Wuhan lab and had an agreement to cooperate with the Chinese on research conducted there, but by 2014 the French had been excluded from working at the lab. The French suspected they were pushed out because the Chinese military was doing research at the lab.