FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday avoided specifics when he was grilled by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., about the bureau’s investigation of the possibility that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab or perhaps was even manipulated by the Chinese government, but said his agency is doing a “deeper dive” on the theory.
Gaetz – who is under investigation by the FBI for sex trafficking, allegations he strongly denies – specifically pressed Wray on the FBI’s interactions with Chinese scientist Li-Meng Yan during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Gaetz said the FBI seized Yan’s phone when she arrived in the United States on April 28, 2020, and sought to interview her on multiple occasions in connection with the origin of the coronavirus.
Yan is a whistleblower who’s spoken publicly, including to Fox News, on the coronavirus and the alleged cover-up of the virus’ origins by the Chinese government.
“On April 28, Dr. Li-Meng Yan landed at LAX. One of your agents interviewed her at that time, she then traveled to New York. Your agent from Los Angeles followed her to New York and sought an interview on both the first of May and second of May in 2020,” and the FBI took Yan’s phone, Gaetz said.
He continued to ask Wray what he knew and when about the FBI’s contacts with Yan in regards to the possibility that China was manipulating the COVID-19 virus in connection with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“I’m not sure there’s much I can say about any specific investigation,” Wray said. “I have been very vocal and I will continue to be very vocal about the counterintelligence threat which takes a wide variety of forms from the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party. And I think it’ s one of the most significant threats facing this country.”
Gaetz continued to ask Wray about the FBI’s sustained interest in Yan and complained that Wray was not providing the facts about the origins of the coronavirus because “it is so central to the safety and health of our fellow Americans.”
“I have to be careful not to discuss specific investigations,” Wray replied. “I will say that in addition to our investigative work, as I think has been recently publicly stated by the DNI and I think even the president himself, the intelligence community has been looking at this issue. There are differences of view within the intelligence community about the origins of the coronavirus and we’re taking a deeper dive on that subject.”
Gaetz was not satisfied with the answer. He said, “We are unable to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable if we throw our hands in the air and say ‘Oh there’s differences of opinion.'”
“We have to assess whether those differences are similarly rooted in facts,” Gaetz added. “That’s why I need the facts from you.”
The theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab or could have even been manipulated by the Chinese government was widely dismissed by many in the media and in government institutions like the World Health Organization early in the pandemic.
But amid growing evidence supporting the possibility, members of Congress – particularly Republicans – have been pushing the Biden administration to release intelligence that could shed further light on the credibility of the theory.
This has included bills that would force the Biden administration to declassify intelligence related to the lab leak theory; calls on the Biden administration to place more pressure on China; and explicit challenges for China to try to disprove the lab leak theory.
“While I can’t prove it, every piece of evidence – and you’ve seen scientists today come out saying we need more investigation – points to a leak from this laboratory,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on “America’s Newsroom.” “Come on, bring it. Show the world this didn’t come from Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The theory has even gained more mainstream subscribers like former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. He first told CNN he believes the virus came from a Chinese lab earlier this year.