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tv   Washington Journal Warren Strobel  CSPAN  May 27, 2021 10:32am-11:01am EDT

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chastised -- "chastise," and " overlord." joining in with your facebook calls -- facebook, calls, text, and tweets. live at noon eastern with max hastings. tune in on sunday, july 4 for conversation with harvard university professor and pulitzer prize winning historian on book tv on c-span2. ♪
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that was a portion of an exchange yesterday before the appropriations subcommittee focusing on appropriation matters for nih. the attention shifted to covid-19. you heard from dr. francis collins and dr. anthony fauci. warren strobel is joining us from annapolis, maryland, one of the reporters that broke the story about new investigations into the origin of covid-19. let me share with our audience part of what you and your colleagues had been reporting this week. "three researchers from china's wuhan institute of virology became sick enough in november 2019 that they sought hospital care according to a report that could add weight to whether the virus might have escaped from a laboratory. the details of the reporting go
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beyond a state department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the trump administration, which said that several researchers came sick in autumn of 2019 with symptoms consistent with covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses. the wuhan institute has not shared raw data, safety logs, and rap records -- and lab records on his work with that switch many consider the cause of the virus." can you comment on that? guest: i want to give a shout out to to my colleague, michael gordon, we took the state department's statement issued five days before trump left office. it is not given elective attention and i think it was discounted because president trump and pompeo had it in for china.
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we tried to get behind that statement and confirm the intelligence. over the course of many weeks we were able to tease it out in details. two of those details were important. the researchers had to seek hospital treatment. -- reporting indicates that much more need to be learned. host: will we learn more from china? will they be open to communication? guest: indications now are no. china basically said investigation is done. it is time to start looking at other countries.
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all indications are that china is not going to cooperate further. there is a question about how we will ever know if this pandemic which has taken more than 3 million lives how it started. host: we had a caller earlier that made reference to 14th street. make reference to that. "beijing asserts the virus could have originated outside of china, even in the department on -- the department in maryland. the white house has said there are no credible reasons to investigate it." guest: dietrich is the primary u.s. lab. they don't do viral warfare, but
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they do study pathogens in order to defend against them. as far as i am aware, there is no evidence that the coronavirus has any connection to dietrich, maryland. i don't want to point fingers, but we do know that the wuhan institute of virology was studying that coronavirus is -- bat coronaviruses. after the outbreak, they took down from their website at genetic data they were working with. i should not hesitate to add that president biden has called for the u.s. intelligence community to double down its efforts and give a report in 90 days. they have been working on this for more than a year and it is unclear to me what additional work or information they can get. they will be working closely with the national laboratories
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which have expertise in this. we will see what they come up with but it is unclear if they can answer this difficult question. host: that deadline in the u.s. senate, a resolution that passed unanimously put together by josh hawley of missouri calling for the intelligence community to be more transparent. i want to go back to the who. initially there was a delay in the who sending a team to wuhan, china. ultimately they were left inside the country and inside the lab. did they have enough access and what did they find? i have a colleague who covered the who and had been tracking that. i will be honest with your viewers, i have not uncovered it directly but what i understand is that there was a delay and when the team went in, they had to rely on whatever the chinese
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was going to show them or tell them. it is not an independent investigation in that they were able to do interviews with research and staff -- researchers and staff. they were not able to look at safety logs, logs of disposable materials, those sorts of things. they issued a report in which he said that originating there it is unlikely. that same day, the head of who said that the lab should be investigated along with other theories. the who was not allowed to do an independent investigation. the u.s. this week called on the world health assembly -- called on an independent investigation at the world health assembly. host: your piece includes the quote "many proponents of the
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lab hypothesis say a lab with an infected that -- while the lab hypothesis is being taken more seriously, the debate is still colored by political tensions, including how much evidence is needed to sustain the hypothesis. if we are not getting answers from china -- sustain the hypothesis." if we are not getting answers from china, can we sustain the hypothesis? guest: i have talked to officials who say we may not know or it will be many years and decades before we know. there are two leading theories, one is the lab theory and the other three is that the virus came from nature, from a bat perhaps from eating an animal. that is part of the investigation.
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the problem is that no animal or speeches of animals have been identified -- they have not been able to find a transition -- a transmission chain. early on without the on wet market was the place where the virus kicked off. it is now known that is not true, it was circulating earlier in the wet market was a super-spreader event. there are a lot of unanswered questions. the world deserves to know, not just for this pandemic but to help event super -- prevent future pandemics. host: when you talk to your experts, why is china reluctant to reopen any kind of investigation? what is the government afraid of? guest: that is a question i don't think they can answer or i can answer. i don't want to point fingers
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here, just want to describe what china's actions have been like. one might speculate they are embarrassed by the fact that the pandemic did start in china. it reflects badly on them and they are try to shut down the investigation or focus attention elsewhere. i'm afraid it is a question that is hard to answer without getting into the chinese leadership which is difficult for you and i and for u.s. intelligence. host: let's get to our listeners. democrats, 202-748-8000. republicans, 202-748-8001. independents, 202-748-8002. our guest, warren strobel is with us. what other looming questions do you have that remain unanswered? for you personally. guest: there are a lot of
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questions. why did china take some of the actions they did in terms of deleting data and blocking the investigation? did the researchers get sick? what did they get sick with? was it seasonal flu or something like covid? i think there are other questions surrounding the lab and other activities of other medical institutes near the wuhan institute of virology. it is also -- the head of the chinese cdc is there. there is the wuhan institute of biological products which develops vaccines so i think there is a lot of question about the activity going on there. the question going forward is how do we set up a system that helps detect early pandemic outbreaks and move quickly to stem them. host: sue, you are on the air. caller: back in january 2019,
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there was a chinese reporter that reported all of and she had pictures of one guy in the hospital. i want to know if you know anything about that. my next question is isn't there an international lawyer that has brought papers up at the hague for a trial there? guest: good questions. i am unaware of activity at the hague. there was some earlier reporting and china, january, 2020, right after the pandemic began. that is my understanding. there was some reporting done by chinese journalists, bloggers, activists, and that was shut down quickly, and scientists in china were told not to speak out on this topic and so forth. again, not pointing fingers or drawing conclusions, but it does
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way -- raise questions. host: from georgia. bill. good morning. caller: good morning. my question is, i wonder what contributes more -- what contributed more to the deaths of over half a million people in the united states -- where the virus came from, or the last president deciding and saying to bob woodward that he was going to minimize it, and actually are allowed the virus to spread throughout the united states. i am just confused. which is more important? it does not matter where it came from, what happens is what happened with the former president did with that information.
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host: bill, let me turn the question to you -- are they both important, or is one a higher priority? caller: to me, it does not matter where it came from. it does not matter. it is a virus, and it kills people -- it killed over half of a million people in the united states. i wonder the reason it -- if the reason it killed over half a million people in the united states is the way that it was handled. host: thanks for the call. 3.4 million people worldwide. warren strobel? guest: those are two separate questions, and one thing we have not talked about, hopefully we will answer the question one way, the lab leak theory originally, for much of last year was derided and looked down upon. many observers would say president and others in his
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administration were bringing this up, pointing the finger at china to deflect from their own, arguably poor effort in battling the pandemic. so what has happened is obviously trump has left office. china has not cooperated with who. you have a series of scientists, some prestigious, shifting public views and statements, starting to say the lab leak theory is not a conspiracy theory -- it should be investigated. these include people like dr. anthony fauci, leading infectious disease expert in this country, -- who worked with the pool on -- wuhan lab, and so many others, so it has gone from a conspiracy theory to mainstream, and our article posted sunday, followed by a lengthy, excellent article
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examining the entire lab leak theory on monday has kicked off a debate to where president biden issues a statement saying i will double down on the intelligence committee efforts to find the answer to this. host: and based on your reporting, what you know about this lab in wuhan, china? what is its purpose? guest: it is certainly one of the leading institutes in china to study viruses. it was built with french help. i am told -- i have not confirmed this -- part of the deal is 50 french researchers give or take were supposed to be able to work there. once the lab was completed, they were disinvited from participating. it has done a lot of important, good science. it studies coronavirus's and other viruses, and it is a s --bsl 4, a biosafety level four
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and interestingly the coronavirus work was done at a level of two. host: we welcome our viewers. if you are just listening in, we are talking with warren strobel, with some new reporting on wuhan, china, and as you mentioned, the president calling for a full, 90-day review of the possible source or sources of covid-19. our next caller is robert. washington, d.c., independent line. thank you. caller: two are for taking my call. there are a lot -- thank you for taking my call. there are a lot of things going on around this conspiracy. i would like to ask, have you ever read the strecker report? guest: which report? caller: no, i have not. guest: have you ever heard of --
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caller: the strecker report. guest: no. caller: i went to a luncheon with a book called aids made in the usa and he pointed a finger at -- directly at who created the aids virus. the coronavirus is definitely created because of the way it functions. i called in on c-span last year about a possible way to take care of this airborne virus. host: thank you for the call. let me take this point and ask, are there lessons learned from past health crises whether it is aids or other pandemics that have been applied or need to be applied with what is happening with covid-19? guest: it is a good question pin this pandemic is the worst one
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since the spanish flu of 1819, so the question is what lessons do we take from this pandemic, what can we do better, and certainly there are a bunch of recommendations. we need to have a much better global monitoring and detection system, and maybe even have rules that force countries to share information one day are at the center of a pandemic or the beginning of a pandemic. most people think the u.s. intelligence community, while not the lead agency on global health companies to put more effort and resources into pandemics because this pandemic has killed -- i don't know how many nine/11's it is, but it is a lot, and this is something they have to pay more attention to. those are a few off the top of my head. i think there are many more. most would agree it has been an international health failure. host: with the president issuing a statement calling for a 90-day
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review, first what was your reaction to the statement, and secondly how does the review process unfold? guest: my first reaction to the statement -- there is an interesting paragraph where he acknowledged -- kind of unusual for a president to acknowledge there are differences within the intelligence community. it is made up of 18, believe it or not, different entities, and president biden said there are a couple of them that lean toward the natural transmission theory, that this came from nature, and one of those that leans toward the lab leak theory, but he basically acknowledged that they don't know, and that is what the intelligence community tells me as well. they stand by their two main theories, lab leak or natural transmission, but they don't know with any finality. i guess what happens now is the u.s. -- the intelligent --
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intelligence community will have to reorient their policies in terms of machines they used to collect data and analysts they use to analyze data and come to conclusions. they will have to shift priorities to focus on the pandemic and hopefully either tease out new information, or a lot of times, as in both -- journalism and intelligence, it is not teasing out information, but connecting dots and looking at information in a new light. host: peter from provincetown, massachusetts. good morning. you are on with warren strobel from "wall street journal online -- journal." caller: thank you for taking my call p i am glad you brought up the french role in the wuhan -- call. i am glad you brought up the french role in the wuhan lab. last year there were one or two press accounts of tribute it to
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french researchers that looked at the structure of the virus and noticed there were proteins present that could not have evolved naturally, and that pointed a finger at a human role , larger than thought previously. host: peter, thank you for the call. warren strobel? guest: that is a really good point. i remember the french work you cite, and if i recall correctly there were some experts say it was not good science or not accurate. i am not saying that myself, but some scientists did. the bottom line is there are some people who say this virus shows no signs of human manipulation and therefore must have come from nature. there are other scientists that say there are no ways to manipulate things in the lab, techniques where you can manipulate viruses, their genes in ways that cannot be detected. i am frankly not a virologist at
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all to be able to answer the question, but it is an ongoing debate as to whether this virus shows any signs of human manipulation. one last point if i could, there is a third theory that china was developing a bioweapon deliberately engineered, and the u.s. intelligence committee has said they don't believe that in most scientists don't believe that one we are talking about a lab leak theory we are talking about people doing signs for the right reason, but then something bad happened and the virus escaped. host: from morgan, louisiana, tom. indiana -- independent line. caller: good morning paradigm wanted to ask -- morning. i wanted to ask how many americans of east asian dissent have died of covid? host: why do you ask the question, tom? caller: on march 10 i saw a
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report on cnbc that the first cambodian head died, and in mid february on nhk, i saw a report that 10,800 japanese had died, and on c-span in october, just before the election, a woman called and said that her brother who lived in thailand had told her that 159 had died from covid. host: have you heard that information? guest: i have command i want to say something clearly here -- our reporting and that of others is trying to get to the source of the virus in fact-based sort of way and examine the role of the chinese government and chinese scientists, and in no
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way should it be taken or used in some manner to harm or malign asian americans, or even the chinese population at large. that is not what we are doing here and i would hate it if our reporting got misconstrued that way. it is simple to shed light on an important international health problem. host: andrew is next good he is on the phone in baltimore. good morning. caller: if information is found that this was generated in lab and released, what kind of action do you think the united states will be taking on any punitive damages? host: thank you for the question. guest: good question. again, let me emphasize that it is not yet proven, and most people think if it was released from the lab it was not generated specifically to be released, it was a lab accident of some kind.
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should that be proven, there are laws beginning to move through congress talking about reparations for the hundreds of thousands of americans who have died, sanctions, other sorts of things, and that is really a question for policymakers, and if it is proven, let's say at some point the lab leak theory is proven, i think the question gets thrown back to the world health organization in terms of international laws, international regulations for doing this kind of work, and future investigations of future pandemic outbreaks, and will they have more authority to be able to go when and find out exactly what happened in the future -- go in and find out exactly what happened in the future? host: jaclyn p you are on with warren strobel -- jaclyn. you are on with warren strobel. caller: good morning. in the obama administration, millions of tax dollars were spent on the obama pandemic plan. is it criminal that trump ignored it? host: thank you, jaclyn.
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guest: i think it is fair to say there was a difference about that this -- of emphasis. i am being diplomatic care. there were several programs started under president obama that president trump either ended or curtailed. i think there was a cut in funding for state department -- for a state department program that was meant to detect and prevent -- the early detection of global health threats overseas. i think most people would say there was a downgrading of that under president trump. how much that contributed to what has happened is a question for debate. host: let me go back to one final point of your reporting of those scientists who were -- who suffered some sort of anonymous in november, 2019, and that spurred your reporting this past week. when did you first hear about that, and this is an obvious
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question, but what does that tell you about the potential causes of this virus? guest: it was mentioned as we discussed in the outset, in the january 15 statement put out by the state department, and we spent weeks talking about current and former u.s. officials. i would guess it was probably a month ago that we first got the number three, the date of november, and a few more details. it was really hard to get, and we were ultimately satisfied that we had enough to go with the story. again, what it tells us is there are additional questions here. we don't know that the three were sick with covid. it could have been seasonal flu. it is possible they were sick with covid but they did not get it from the lab, it was circulating elsewhere in wuhan and they picked it up and went to work at the lab. it is certainly in the timing of november -- it is very interesting. it is certainly fuel for


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