Emails show leading US scientists have warned Chinese colleagues that Republicans want to probe the Wuhan lab for the origin of COVID-19

A top US scientist at a Texas lab with close ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was offered a job about a year after Chinese scientists warned members of Congress were likely to launch an investigation into the COVID-19 lab offered by a Chinese university -leak theory, Records obtained from Judicial Watch discover.

In April 2020 emails, Dr. James W. LeDuc, professor and former director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Department, the Wuhan lab’s top scientist, Dr. Zhengli Shi, before Republican lawmakers pushed for an investigation into her lab, which received funding from the US government to research coronaviruses.

“These chilling documents show that China had partners here in the United States willing to fight for them in the Wuhan lab controversy,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch obtained these email records through a public records request made to the University of Texas Medical Department. Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB is one of the largest active biocontainment facilities in the United States and is home to several Biosafety Level 4 laboratories that study deadly diseases under stringent containment regimes.

LeDuc is a renowned expert on biosecurity with decades of experience operating BSL-4 labs – the highest level of security reserved for labs working with the most dangerous pathogens such as Ebola or Marburg viruses. His lab in Galveston has partnered with China since at least 2013, when construction of the Wuhan Institute began, and it has made several trips to Wuhan train crew since at least 1986. LeDuc’s Galveston lab also housed two Chinese postdocs who were trained to work safely at BSL-4 facilities and returned to China to work at the Wuhan lab.

That Theory of the formation of laboratory leaks of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, focuses on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is located near the fish market that was blamed for the first major outbreak of the virus. Though the theory is disputed by scientists, who say it’s more likely that COVID-19 evolved naturally from an animal host, conclusive evidence pointing to either of the theories of origin has remained elusive. And while none of the hypotheses have been proven, opponents of the lab leak theory have waged a vigorous campaign to label it “misinformation” and to discredit it, often with the help of big tech companies that have banned users from testing the theory at the request of the Top to discuss public health officials. Many of these officials have never disclosed potential conflicts of interest they would have if the lab leak theory were to prove true, as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose agency provided taxpayer money for coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab.

Emails obtained by Judicial Watch show that when Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans called for the Trump administration to investigate the Wuhan lab in 2020, LeDuc caught the eye of their efforts and his Chinese colleagues warned.

On 04/16/2020, E-mail from former Commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, David Franz, to LeDuc bears the subject line “Rubio” and states: “I heard from someone in the government tonight that Senator Rubio is beginning to respond to an investigation into the Wuhan to push labs. I just found it on the internet at Forbes by Kenneth Repoza. The title of the article reads, “Eight Senators Call for an Inquiry into the Origin of the Coronavirus.”

The email links to a Forbes article on an effort by Rubio and seven other Republican senators to get Trump to appoint a special envoy to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and the lab leak theory. Records show that LeDuc forwarded this email to Shi, the director of the Wuhan lab, requesting a phone call with her “soon” to discuss the possible investigation.

Shi wrote back on April 18, 2020, denying LeDuc’s request. “Due to the complicated situation, I don’t think it’s the right time to communicate by phone. What I can tell you is that this virus is not leaky [sic] from our laboratory or other laboratories. It is a shame to make this scientific question so complicated.”

LeDuc responded that he had been asked to account to the University of Texas system for his work with the Wuhan lab, and he was preparing a summary of that work that he could provide to the university administration or members of Congress, if necessary he will be asked to do so. He offered to let Shi edit the synopsis of their joint work.

I fully understand and I don’t want to endanger you and your research activities under any circumstances. Given our long history of collaboration between GNL 9Galveston National Laboratory0 and WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology0), I have been repeatedly asked for details of our work. Attached is a draft summary that I will provide to the leadership of our University of Texas system and likely to congressional committees that are now being formed. Please read them carefully and make any changes you want. I want this to be as accurate as possible and I certainly don’t want to misrepresent any of your valuable contributions.

Two days later, in an email dated April 20, 2020, LeDuc wrote to Shi and Dr. Zhiming Yuan, the director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, telling them he was concerned the Wuhan lab will continue to be the focus of those studying the origins of COVID-19.

“I fear that this discussion as to where early coronavirus work was conducted, what role the Wuhan CDC has in bat-associated coronavirus research, if any, and when exactly scientists at WIV will play, will continue for some time [Wuhan Institute of Virology] first became aware of and had specimens in the WIV and where this work was done (degree of biological containment),” LeDuc wrote.

Previously reported emails show that months earlier, LeDuc had urged his Chinese counterparts to be transparent and answer questions investigators would ask about the possible origins of COVID-19. In February, LeDuc sent Yuan a series of questions he believed the Wuhan lab would need to answer as part of an investigation into whether COVID-19 “is the result of a release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (main campus or new BSL3/BSL4 facilities).”

The questions he asked were never answered and China continues to block international investigators. Emails show leading US scientists have warned Chinese colleagues that Republicans want to probe the Wuhan lab for the origin of COVID-19

Laura Coffey

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