President Donald Trump and Pompeo have for weeks publicly pushed the story that the coronavirus originated in and escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, where scientists were conducting experiments. In a press conference last week, Pompeo said there was “enormous evidence” that the virus originated in the lab. China has denied the claims. And foreign intelligence officials and even members of the White House’s own coronavirus task force have pushed back against that claim, saying the virus most likely originated in the wild and was naturally transmitted from animal to human, possibly in a public market.
Those contradictions have senior officials at the State Department, six of whom spoke to The Daily Beast, on edge, worrying that the secretary, in particular, is moving too quickly to publicly conclude what intelligence officials around the world are either still trying to understand or have said is inaccurate.
The public declarations by Pompeo have already begun to disrupt diplomatic relationships between the State Department and its allies, multiple officials said. One official told The Daily Beast that their counterparts in Europe and Australia have over the past week voiced frustration at Pompeo, saying his statements not only contradict parts of their intelligence assessments but that they would make it difficult for the countries to get China to allow an independent investigation. Another official said Europe’s skittishness was a result of “needing medical equipment from China.”