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Trump and Pompeo Further Claims That the Coronavirus Originated in a Wuhan Lab, Health Experts Stress That It Is “Natural in Origin”

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  • Hours after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it was investigating whether the coronavirus pandemic began from natural causes or from a lab outbreak in China, President Trump on Thursday said he was confident that the virus had broken out of a lab.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated this claim Sunday, citing “enormous evidence.”
  • The “lab theory” contradicts the opinion of many health experts, who argue the virus is very likely “natural in origin.”
  • It also contradicts other world leaders and even other federal U.S. agencies, which have so far found no evidence to support such a theory.

Trump and Pompeo Say Coronavirus Came from Chinese Lab

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are pushing a theory that the coronavirus pandemic began in a lab in Wuhan, China; however, scientists are citing a lack of evidence to that theory and believe a natural origin is much more likely. 

On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement saying it was looking at two possibilities into how this pandemic started. The first is that the outbreak began “through contact with infected animals.” The second is that it “was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Later in the day, Trump gave support to that second theory after a reporter asked him if he had a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of the virus.

When asked why, Trump said he was not allowed to reveal that information.

Pompeo repeated Trump’s claim in a Sunday interview on “This Week” with ABC co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

“Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?” Raddatz asked. 

“Martha, there’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” Pompeo responded. “We’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outside, but I think the whole world can see now.”

“Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories,” he added.

“These are not the first times that we’ve had the world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab. So while the intelligence committee continues to do its work, they should continue to do that and verify so that we are certain. I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.” 

Directly afterward, Pompeo said he agreed with a recent report from the ODNI that said it doesn’t believe the coronavirus was man-made or genetically modified. 

Raddatz then asked him if he thought China had intentionally released the coronavirus or if it was a lab accident, but Pompeo said he couldn’t answer that question because the Communist Party has refused to cooperate with world health experts.

Later on Sunday, during a Fox News town hall, Trump seemed to indicate that he thought the virus had broken out from a lab in Wuhan.

“I think they made a horrible mistake and they didn’t want to admit it,” he said.

“We wanted to go in. They didn’t want us there, even world health wanted to go in. They were admitted but much later, you know, not immediately. And my opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out, just like a fire.”

Health Experts and Other World Leaders Disagree

If the president’s claim is true, such a revelation would be extremely notable, except many scientists disagree with this theory. 

While there have been a flurry of discussions as to whether the virus specifically originated at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, health officials say the world may never truly be able to learn that answer. They do, however, believe that it’s much more likely the virus made the leap from an animal to a human in a non-lab setting. 

World Health Organization Emergency Response Chief Mike Ryan directly pushed back at Trump’s claim on Friday, saying, “We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences and looked at this virus. We are assured that this virus is natural in origin. What is important is that we establish what that natural host for this virus is… how the animal-human species barrier was breached.”

In addition to health experts, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that there’s no evidence the coronavirus originated in a lab. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said France had seen no evidence of linking COVID-19 to a Wuhan lab. 

On top of all of that, even in the United States, current and former government officials reportedly told The New York Times that the C.I.A. has not been able “to unearth any data beyond circumstantial evidence to bolster the lab theory.” The agency has also reportedly told lawmakers that it does not have enough information to either refute or confirm the theory. 

It added that the only way to truly find “definitive proof” would be by gaining access to the lab and studying its viral samples. 

Lab Theory Spurred by China’s Lack of Transparency

Part of the reason the lab theory has gained such traction may be a result of China’s lack of transparency after the pandemic first began. 

For example, Chinese officials have rejected calls for an investigation into the source of the virus. In March, one Chinese official actually pushed a conspiracy theory that the U.S. spread the virus. A month earlier, China shut down the lab that shared the coronavirus genome. 

Because of actions like that, Pompeo was also critical of China’s early actions, saying the Chinese Communist Party “did all that it could to make sure that the world didn’t learn in a timely fashion about what was taking place.”

“There’s lots of evidence of that,” Pompeo added. “Some of it you can see in public, right. We’ve seen announcements, we’ve seen the fact that they’ve kicked journalists out, we saw the fact that those who were trying to report on this, medical professionals, inside of China were silenced. They shut down reporting. All the kind of things authoritarian regimes do. It’s the way communist parties operate.”

Still, an editorial in the Communist Party-controlled Global Times has pushed back against this claim and the lab theory, reading:

“Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool. The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence, and during Sunday’s interview, he was bluffing.”

Part of the reason why neither Trump nor Pompeo will explain the evidence they’ve cited could be because according to reports, some evidence appears to be based on electronic intercepts of communications among Chinese officials, and revealing those could reportedly reveal intel about how the U.S. tracks Chinese officials.

Other critics, including those in the U.S., have alleged that the Trump Administration’s efforts to ramp up criticism of China are a deflection for how the federal government has handled the pandemic. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (The New York Times)

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Josh Hawley Claims Ethics Complaint Against Him Is “Cancel Culture”

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  • Seven Democratic Senators filed an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz last week over their efforts in leading objections to the certification of the presidential election.
  • The group urged the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into whether Cruz and Hawley’s actions inspired violence or if there were any connections between the two Senators, their staffers, and the insurrectionists.
  • Hawley filed a counter-complaint against the seven Democrats Monday, arguing that they were engaging in cancel culture. 
  • “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together,” he wrote.

Ethics Committee Complaints

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee Monday alleging that a group of Democratic senators were engaging in “cancel culture” by calling for a recent investigation into his conduct.

Last week, seven Democratic senators, lead by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), filed an ethics complaint against Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) for leading the objection to the certification of the presidential election

In the complaint, the members accused Hawley and Cruz of legitimizing the false claims that prompted the insurrection in the first place and then continuing to “amplify the claims of fraud that they likely knew to be baseless and that had led to violence earlier that day,” by still voting to object.

The letter also noted that both Cruz and Hawley touted their plan to object to the certification as a way to collect more campaign donations. It argued that they continued to do so while the Capitol was literally under siege and even after the insurrection. 

As a result, the seven Democrats urged the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was any coordination between Hawley, Cruz, or their staffers and the insurrectionists, if they knew about the plans for the Jan. 6 rally, or if they took donations from people and organizations involved.

They also implored the committee to look into whether the actions of the two Senators actions inspired violence or “otherwise engaged in criminal conduct, or unethical or improper behavior.” If any evidence is found, the Democrats recommended the committee take “strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure.”

Hawley Speaks Out

In his counter-complaint, Hawley accused the Democrats of trampling on free speech in an attempt to “cancel” him.

“This line of thinking is, however, sadly consistent with the new woke-mob mentality that you should cancel anyone who disagrees with your views,” he wrote. “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together.”

Hawley also echoed that sentiment in a cover essay published by The New York Post on Monday, where claimed he has been “canceled” and “muzzled” over his attempts to stop the Democratic election of President Joe Biden from being certified.

Both the letter and the article attracted significant backlash online and in the media. In a particularly scathing critique, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon condemned Hawley for claiming he was being censored.

“No one has muzzled Josh Hawley. What happened to Josh Hawley isn’t cancel culture. It’s called consequences,” Lemon said. “That’s how the First Amendment works. Say whatever you want, but you gotta pay the price if you say something stupid, or you do something stupid or treasonous, or if you try to overturn a duly elected president, right?”

“Don’t fall for this, people,” he continued. “Think about the actions in the Capitol. Think about what happened, think about the people who died, think about the cops who were beaten by people. Think about all that.”

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Vox) (CNN)

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Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani

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  • Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
  • The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
  • It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
  • This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.

Dominion Sues Giuliani

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.

Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.

Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the Big Lie, which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”

The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”

The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.

Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him. 

The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.

According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week. 

“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.

Other Defamation Cases

The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks. 

Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.

Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.

These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)

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House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process

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  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
  • The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
  • The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs. 
  • Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.

Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.

The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.

Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.

In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.

During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.

“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.” 

McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”

While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.

Implications for Power-Sharing Deal

The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.

As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.

The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”

That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.

Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal. 

But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.

In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)

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