Pompeo strongly suggested that the COVID-19 virus that sparked a deadly global pandemic escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan.

Former Secretary of State and Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Pompeo earlier this week strongly suggested that the coronavirus sparking a deadly global pandemic escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, where scientists were conducting research on bat coronaviruses.

He said at a Center for Security Policy event Tuesday:

While I can’t prove where it came from, I can tell you the overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence suggests that the Chinese were working on this virus in their laboratory, that the laboratory was unsafe, that the laboratory actors, whether they were doctors or technicians, were conducting a set of activities that made the virus more human-to-human spreadable and likely more lethal as well, and then somehow it likely got out of that laboratory.

He added, “I hope I’m wrong, but their reckless [behavior] in terms of covering up where patient zero came from, or where this virus actually began in Wuhan suggests that there is something that they do not want the world to know.”

Pompeo’s comments on the virus’s origins have been some of the strongest to date.

He called on China to disprove that it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where scientists were conducting research on bat coronaviruses and gain-of-function experiments to make bat coronaviruses more deadly to humans.

Some of the lab’s research on bat coronaviruses was funded by United States taxpayers via a National Institute of Health grant — specifically from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — to contractor EcoHealth Alliance, which partnered with the Wuhan lab on some of its research.

Pompeo said China went “full Chernobyl” to cover up the origins of the coronavirus– which was first discovered in Wuhan, China, where the WIV is located.

He continued:

It became apparent early on, so January, February of 2020, that the Communist Chinese Party had gone full Chernobyl. The fact is, they were not going to let anybody have access to any information, any data, they were going to cover this thing up, they were going to use the propaganda tools, at one point you’ll recall, they were going to try to blame the United States for having brought the virus upon the world, this was classic disinformation campaign foisted upon the world.

He said the Trump administration tried to gain access to information but was “shut down”:

We tried, the CDC tried, the HHS tried, the State Department, through our ambassadors tried to get access to this information and we were shut down. And doctors were disappeared, journalists were taken off the map, this was full lock down information mode by the Chinese Communist Party.

He recalled that when he first suggested the virus came from WIV, he was mocked. “Certainly no one in the medical community came to my support,” he said. “The Chinese had [a] stranglehold on the information, saying, ‘Oh this came from a wet market, this virus…couldn’t have been manmade or manipulated.’ Well, none of those statements are true for sure.”

Just last month, the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified U.S. intelligence components have “coalesced around two alternative theories.”

“These scenarios are [that] it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident,” she said.

Pompeo said he hoped that one day, the Chinese government would prove that he is wrong.

“I hope that one day, they will prove that I am wrong, and they will demonstrate to the world that patient zero wasn’t something that came from inside of a Chinese bio-facility in Wuhan, China,” he said.

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Kristina Wong