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COVID may have originated from Chinese lab leak, U.S. Energy Dept. says

A classified report from the U.S. Energy Department suggests that COVID-19 “likely” originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, China, according to two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the report who spoke with NBC News. The Energy Department report is one of many government investigations into the origin of the virus.

Key lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month, and The Wall Street Journal first reported the findings on Sunday. The report maintains that COVID-19 was not the result of a Chinese bioweapon.

Despite the report, the U.S. intelligence community does not consider the Energy Department’s conclusion to be hugely significant due to disagreements between agencies regarding the origin of the virus. The source who spoke with NBC News added that the lab-related leak was deemed an “accident.”

The Energy Department is one of 18 government departments and agencies that comprise the U.S. intelligence community. A spokesperson for the Energy Department affirmed in a statement that the agency “continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed.”

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has called for extensive public hearings should the U.S. intelligence community conclusively determine that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese laboratory. During an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Sullivan suggested that lawmakers first “have public hearings on this and really dig into it.”

The White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, acknowledged that the intelligence community does not have a definitive answer regarding the origin of COVID-19. “There is a variety of views in the intelligence community. Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

House Republicans have launched their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic. The National Intelligence Director’s Office is currently reviewing classified information provided in response to a Feb. 13 letter from Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chair of the Oversight Committee, and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. A spokesperson for the Oversight Committee confirmed that the committee is “reviewing the classified information provided.”

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