In an effort to deflect blame for his response to COVID-19, President Donald Trump has roped in the intelligence community to investigate his theory that the World Health Organization (WHO) covered up COVID-19 when the virus first broke out in China.
Several unnamed current and former officials told NBC News on Tuesday that the CIA, National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency have all been told to look into the matter.
“As the President has said, the United States is thoroughly investigating this matter,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement. “Understanding the origins of the virus is important to help the world respond to this pandemic but also to inform rapid-response efforts to future infectious disease outbreaks.”
At the outset of the outbreak, Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, promising Americans that the number of cases would miraculously drop to zero. As of Wednesday morning, however, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has officially surpassed the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
Trump has been accusing the WHO of “covering up” COVID-19 while praising himself for his response to the pandemic.
However, there is no evidence that the organization did so.
“Looking back, I think we declared (an) emergency at the right time,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said last week of the agency’s decision to describe the outbreak as a pandemic on March 11.
Trump is ramping up his attacks on the WHO as he attempts to shake off criticism that he didn’t act on COVID-19 quickly enough.
However, that criticism was further boosted this week by a Washington Post report that revealed that the intelligence community had repeatedly warned the President about COVID-19 in their daily briefings going as far back as January.