President Trump said during a news conference Thursday that the coronavirus may have been created in a Chinese lab, and shared doubt on possible scenarios that it jumped from animals to humans.
“Yes I have. Yes I have,” Trump said when a reporter asked if he has confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Technology was where the virus originated. He added, “We’re looking at exactly where it came from, who it came from, how it happened.”
That lab is located near a wet market which has been identified as the likely epicenter of the outbreak that began late last year.
The president also addressed the World Health Organization, stating, “I think the World Health Organization ashamed of themselves — because they are like the public relations agency for China. And this country pays them almost $500 million a year, and China only pays $38 million a year.”
He added, ‘They should be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes that are causing thousands of people around the world to die.”
The prevailing scientific theory at this point is that the virus jumped from an animal species like a bat to humans, which could explain the original outbreak in Wuhan.
However, the commander-in-chief is skeptical of that perspective. He said, “You had the theory from the lab, you had the theory from many different – the bats, the type of bat. And the bat is 40 miles away so it couldn’t have been here or couldn’t have been there there. There’s a lot of theories.”
The United States will continue to speak out for #humanrights around the world. We call on China to respect the commitments and promises it made to #HongKong. pic.twitter.com/BdA2L1hngv
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) April 30, 2020
Trump added, “But yeah, we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others. And we are going to put it together and have a very good answer eventually.”
The president expressed optimism that China could be forthcoming, saying, “And China might even tell us. China may tell us.”
In terms of potentially not paying on debt held by China as retaliation, he responded, “You start playing those games and that’s tough. You know we have the dollar to protect. That’s a rough game.”
That topic came up in reference to a Washington Post report that administration officials have discussed having the U.S. cancel its debt obligations.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused China of spreading disinformation and referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus.”
Pompeo told reporters, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers – that China hasn’t shared the answers – I think is very, very telling.”
According to Reuters, a range of options are being discussed to punish China, with the State Department, White House National Security Council, Treasury Department and Pentagon, developing various options.
“There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly,” according to a source.