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"Now, all the evidence pointing to those labs -- the fact that they use bats, that they research coronaviruses, that they have a history of bad safety practices, that the original person infected with the virus had no contact with the [seafood] market -- all of that is circumstantial evidence to be sure," he remarked.
"But, in intelligence questions, we rarely get direct or conclusive evidence," noted Cotton. "So, I agree that all of the evidence -- albeit circumstantial -- points directly at those labs."
"And, if the Chinese Communist Party has evidence to the contrary, they need to bring it forward to the world," he asserted.
"Now, whether the virus was genetically modified or engineered is a highly technical scientific question. And, the weight of scientific opinion right now, [says] that,'No, this was a naturally occurring virus.' But, a naturally occurring virus can, of course, be present in a laboratory where it's being studied," Cotton continued. "That is a different question from saying that laboratory may have had bad safety practices and there could have been an accidental breach which was the original source of what has become this terrible pandemic."
However, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci -- a member of the White House's COVID-19 task force -- has disputed the claim that the virus could have been spread from one of the two labs in question.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” Fauci told National Geographic.
Cotton said Fauci's comments were not necessarily contradicting investigation intel.
"So again, Dr. Fauci was talking primarily about whether a virus could have been manipulated genetically or modified in some way in a laboratory," Cotton stated. "Again, the weight of scientific opinion studying this virus around the world suggests that that is not the case, but that evolution certainly could have happened in nature before any animal was taken into the laboratory or in the laboratory itself."
"But, even setting aside those questions, Sandra, I think we also have to point to how the Communist Party reacted," he told Smith.
"Rather than tell the world upfront in December that there was a new virus, it was in Wuhan, and it was highly contagious -- which they obviously knew at the time -- they deliberately misled the world. They allowed international air travel to continue in December and January. Thereby turning what could have been a local public health emergency into a global pandemic the likes of which we haven't seen in a century."