Trump says China made a ‘mistake’ and tried to cover up coronavirus outbreak

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a live Fox News Channel virtual town hall called “America Together: Returning to Work” with hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum about the response to the coronaviru pandemic being broadcast from inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S. May 3, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

President Donald Trump said Sunday that he believed that a “mistake” in China was the cause of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, though he did not present any evidence for the claim. 

“I think they made a horrible mistake and didn’t want to admit it,” Trump said. 

The comments, which came during a Fox News town hall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “a significant amount of evidence” suggested that the virus emerged from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. 

“My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like a fire,” Trump said. “You know, it’s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire.”

Trump said the government was putting together a report that will be “very conclusive.”

The nation’s top spy agency said Thursday that it had determined that the virus was not man made but was still investigating whether it was caused by “an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

A Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated Friday, however, found that officials in China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the contagion, according to the Associated Press, which reported on the document Sunday. The report found that the country hid details about coronavirus in order to horde medical supplies. 

China has rejected claims that the virus escaped a research center in Wuhan.

Attention has been focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research center located near where the coronavirus outbreak is thought to have emerged, though scientists have said for weeks that it is extremely unlikely that the virus was created in a lab setting.

Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, said last week that the U.S. had been funding the center’s research on coronaviruses, the Associated Press reported. 

“So if it did escape, we’re all in this together,” Morell said. 

The U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have been waging competing propaganda battles amid the public health crisis, with leaders in each country seeking to pin the blame elsewhere and claim the mantle of global leadership.

Trump has had a complicated relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whom he has long referred to as a friend, even as trade tensions have flared. 

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