“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” Trump said when asked what evidence he has seen to make him believe the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
That lab is in the region that saw the first big outbreak of what is now a world-wide pandemic that has infected more than 3.2 million people.
Trump initially was asked by a reporter at a White House event on Thursday about the origins of the virus, and answered, “You have heard all different things. Three or four different concepts as to how it came out.”
“We should have the answer to that in the not-so-distant future and that will determine a lot how I feel about China,” the president said.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event on protecting America’s senior citizens in the East Room of the White House April 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
But he later was asked by a reporter if he had “seen anything that gives you a high degree of confidence, at this point, that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of this virus?”
Trump replied, “Yes, I have,” and then repeated that assertion.
“I think that that the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves, because they’re like the public relations for China,” Trump added, implying that the international health agency was covering up for China.
“This country,” Trump said, referring to the United States, “pays them [WHO] almost $500 million a year, and China pay them $38 million a year.”
“They [WHO] shouldn’t be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes, especially mistakes that are causing hundreds of thousands of people around the world to die.”
Asked if he was suggesting that the coronavirus was not naturally occurring, Trump said, “No.”
“We’re going to see where it is, where it comes from, theory from lab, the bats, the type of bat, couldn’t have been here or there, a lot of theories,” Trump said. “We have people looking at it strongly, scientific people, intel people.”
But when pressed what gave him a high degree of confidence to believe that the virus came out of the Wuhan lab, Trump demurred, saying, “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
Earlier Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials said they have concluded that the virus was “not man-made or genetically modified.”
But they also said they are still investigating if the coronavirus pandemic was sparked by an accident at a lab in China or by contact with animals.
World health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan, China.
They said it likely originated in bats and then jumped to an “intermediate host” before infecting humans.
SARS, an earlier coronavirus that emerged in November 2002 and killed nearly 800 people across the world over nine months, also was believed to have originated in bats before spreading to civet cats and later humans.
There have been about 228,000 deaths worldwide, at least, from Covid-19, since the outbreak began. In the United States, currently the epicenter of the pandemic, there have been more than 1 million people infected, with about 61,000 deaths related to the coronavirus.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.