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Rep. Mike Turner doubles down on COVID lab leak theory despite uncertainty

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(WASHINGTON) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, on Sunday said he thinks there is “significant evidence” COVID originated in a lab.

A new assessment from the Department of Energy concluded with “low confidence” that the virus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic originated in a Wuhan, China, lab despite previous suggestions it was more likely transmitted from an animal.

“I think there’s significant evidence that lends itself to that. And I still do,” Turner told ABC’s “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “That’s why you just saw unanimously — both the Senate and the House — pass legislation demanding that the administration declassify the intelligence the Intelligence Committee has with respect to COVID-19.”

Turner also alleged that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was working to fund the Wuhan lab and had reason to contradict the theory.

Fauci frequently appeared alongside Donald Trump in the former president’s daily COVID-19 briefings at the White House. He also served as Biden’s chief medical adviser.

Turner said he was frustrated to see Fauci’s television appearances, accusing him of giving guidance that contradicted intelligence the chair saw firsthand.

“We voted to say, ‘Show the American people they’re not getting the straight answer from Dr. Fauci or from this administration, they need to be able to see for themselves what has occurred,"” Turner said. “And I understand that Dr. Fauci has a reason to say that there was not a lab leak because he was actively working to fund the lab and move on.”

“I think Dr. Fauci would dispute that,” Raddatz said.

Turner continued to allege funds controlled by Fauci ended up at the lab, arguing that intelligence would help Americans get a straight answer.

Fauci has repeatedly denied Republican lawmakers’ accusations regarding lab funding and bias, calling them “ludicrous” earlier this week and “preposterous” in 2021.

“Our view is show the American public the intelligence,” Turner said. “And then you, Martha, you can have the intelligence in front of you. And the next time Dr. Fauci is on you can say, ‘Hey, but the intelligence actually says X,’ you can challenge him.”

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Wednesday said in a Senate Intelligence Committee testimony: “It is absolutely accurate the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially, and basically components have coalesced around two alternative theories. These scenarios are it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident.”

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Turner also discussed what he characterized as a growing threat from China. He said the military threat is very clear to members of the committee he chairs, citing China’s ongoing buildup of its nuclear arsenal, espionage developments and U.S. telecommunications breaches through use of the popular TikTok app.

“They’re tripling their size of their nuclear weapons pointed at the United States. They’re expanding their shipbuilding. They are absolutely emerging as a military threat to the United States. I think we need to respond and respond very strongly,” Turner said.

He called for stronger action from the Biden administration as multiple lawmakers in Congress introduced bills to restrict or outright ban the app TikTok, criticizing the president as “afraid to provoke” China.

China recently helped orchestrate a groundbreaking agreement between two Middle Eastern countries, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and Iran, often a U.S. adversary. Raddatz pointed to China’s pivotal role in the deal, which did not involve assistance from American leaders.

Turner said the deal reflected Biden’s past reluctance to act on Saudi Arabia’s military concerns and the “harsh words” the president directed at the country when he first took office.

Saudi Arabia faced heavy criticism in recent years over human rights and the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of Saudi rulers. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was alleged to have ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

“They subject Saudi Arabia to a significant amount of criticism and were slow to react and respond to the military needs of Saudi Arabia. So it’s not unexpected that they might look elsewhere for support,” Turner told Raddatz.

Turner said it was disappointing and unexpected, though, that Saudi Arabia turned to Iran.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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