Democrat Himes Backs Republican Push to Declassify Intelligence on Origins of COVID

Democrat Himes Backs Republican Push to Declassify Intelligence on Origins of COVID
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) arrives for a closed door briefing with Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington on Oct. 4, 2019. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Jeff Louderback

During testimony on March 7, the top Democrat in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said that he would support a GOP-led measure that would require the Biden administration to declassify details about possible connections between the coronavirus pandemic and China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In the House Rules Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said of the COVID-19 Origin Act, “I plan to support this legislation, both in committee, where we will mark up a companion bill this evening and the full House later this week.”

“Determining the precise origins of a pandemic disease is challenging under the best of circumstances. But because COVID originated in China, the efforts to definitively determine its source have been even more difficult,” Himes said.

“At every juncture, the ... [CCP] has obfuscated and obstructed legitimate inquiries, a deeply irresponsible approach to global public health,” he added.

Exploring COVID-19 Origin

“The COVID-19 Origin Act is not the bill I would have necessarily drafted on the topic, but I support it because I share the belief that the intelligence community should continue to get to the bottom of COVID’s origin,” Himes said, praising the bi-partisan cooperation behind the proposed legislation.

“And importantly, I believe that they should make as much [of it] public as they can so the American people can consider the best available information we have, as opposed to marinating and conjecture, and speculation, and conspiracy theories,” he continued.

The COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Andy Biggs (Arizona), Michael Cloud (Texas), Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin), Mark Green (Tennessee), August Pfluger (Texas), John Rutherford (Florida), Elise Stefanik (New York); Chris Stewart (Utah), and Daniel Webster (Florida).

“It’s been three years since COVID-19 upended our lives and we’re still asking basic questions about the origins of this virus. That’s unacceptable,” Gallagher said.

“It’s time for Congress to act and force the administration to declassify the relevant intelligence surrounding the pandemic,” he added.

FBI Says ‘Most Likely’ Began in Laboratory

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a television interview last week that COVID-19 “most likely” started in a China-based laboratory.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray said. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”

Last week, the Senate unanimously passed a companion bill introduced by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Miss. and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

On March 8, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a hearing on the coronavirus origins issue.

Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield is scheduled to testify.

The House companion bill that mirrors the proposed legislation unanimously passed by the Senate last week is expected to get support from many Democrats.

Since 2020, many Republicans have contended that COVID-19 originated from a lab in China, amid objections from critics who claimed that the belief was racist and invalid.

“At the height of the pandemic, anyone who spoke out suggesting that COVID-19 might have come from a lab leak in China, they were denounced as a conspiracy theorist, a spreader of misinformation, they were canceled, they were shadow banned on social media platforms, their accounts were suspended, people’s reputations were damaged and destroyed,” Rep. Nicholas Langworthy (R-N.Y.) said at the Rules Committee hearing on March 7.

Now, Langworthy added, “we have the Department of Energy and the FBI both publicly reporting that their conclusions are that COVID-19 emerged as a result of a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research institute in Wuhan, China, controlled by the People’s Republic of China, and ultimately, the CCP.”

Americans Deserve Answers

Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who is Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, opened the hearing by saying “the American public deserves answers to every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic including how this virus was graded and specifically whether it was a natural occurrence or was the result of a lab related event.”

The House Intelligence Committee, Turner explained, “is aware of classified information that would help inform the public as to why the FBI director has indicated that COVID-19 lab leak is not just a possibility, but approaches the idea that it’s likely the intelligence community does have more information about COVID-19 than the public has seen.”

Turner noted that Biden could veto the bill, but “giving the president the understanding that he has bipartisan, bicameral support to take this action” would allow him to cite that support to critics.

House Rules Committee member Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has been one of the most outspoken legislators about COVID-19 mandates. At the hearing, he talked about how many mainstream media outlets and Democratic lawmakers called the discussion about natural immunity to the virus “a conspiracy theory.”

“Natural immunity is a biological fact. There’s a whole list of things that were [thought to be] conspiracy theories that finally I think everybody’s starting to acknowledge [are true],” Massie said. “For instance, masks never really did prevent COVID transmission. School closures never really slowed down the spread of this virus.”

Wrong Hypothesis

Massie referenced that these claims are supported by Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins University professor who told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic last week that “the greatest perpetrator of misinformation during the pandemic has been the United States government.”

Published by Cochrane Library, Makary’s study “Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses” explored the impact of interventions like masks and hand washing on the spread of COVID.

“What public health officials did is they hedged on the wrong side of the issue. They had the wrong hypothesis,” Makary said. “And when overwhelmingly strong evidence came out time after time, 65 studies on masks, 160 studies on natural immunity. Study after study, they didn’t evolve their position. They dug in.”

Makary also said that it is a “no-brainer” that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

‘Not a Conspiracy Theory’

“Obviously, it’s not a conspiracy theory,” Massie noted after adding Makary’s quote. “We’re going to find out more about that.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) recalled that “there was a pretty significant amount of dismissal both by some of our other colleagues but importantly in the press” when mentioning that the virus originated from a lab leak in Wuhan.

Turner urged lawmakers and the public to understand that there will not be a clear answer to where COVID-19 originated.

“Obviously, our committee deals with classified information, not necessarily the public discourse that happens in the media. But you are absolutely correct, of course, that during the public discourse as to the origins of COVID, there was an extreme polarization that did occur,” Turner said in response to Roy’s comments.

“But I do want to caution, the record that we’re asking to be declassified will not provide you an absolute conclusion as to the origins of COVID. There is no smoking gun in this report.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified which committee Massie is a part of. The Epoch Times regrets the error. 
Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
Related Topics