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Friday, 1 May 2020

Donald Trump says he has seen evidence that the coronavirus started in Wuhan virology laboratory - as he warns he could impose tariffs of $1 TRILLION on China in retribution

President Trump said Thursday he has seen evidence that coronavirus started in the Wuhan virology laboratory, as he warned he could impose tariffs of $1 trillion on China in retribution for the pandemic
President Donald Trump said he has seen evidence that coronavirus started in the Wuhan virology laboratory, as he warned he could impose tariffs of $1 trillion on China in retribution for the pandemic.

The president made the explosive charge that the coronavirus that has caused millions of infections and wreaked havoc on the global economy may have been created in the Chinese lab during his coronavirus press briefing Thursday. 

He also suggested the federal government is exploring ways to punish China for triggering the outbreak by imposing tariffs but he stopped short of saying he would refuse to pay back US debts.  

'Yes, I have. Yes, I have,' Trump said when asked if he has confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Technology was the origin of the virus. 

The lab is located near a wet market that has been identified as the likely epicentre of the outbreak that took place late last year. 


The president would not disclose what the evidence was that confirmed his suspicions. 

When asked if he would consider refusing to pay US's debts to China as punishment, the president said he 'could do it differently' and suggested the US will impose high tariffs of around $1 trillion on the nation. 

'I could do the same thing but even for more money just putting on tariffs,' he said.

'So I don't need to do that. It's approximately a trillion dollars - a little bit more I understand but we can do that in probably a little bit more of a forthright manner.'

Trump said withholding debt payments would be a 'rough game' that could damage the 'sanctity' of the dollar and ruled out taking this approach. 

'You start playing those games and that's tough,' he continued.

'We have the dollar to protect. We want to protect the sanctity of the dollar, the importance of the dollar. It's the greatest currency in the history of the world.' 

The president continued: 'It's a good question to say, 'well oh gee, we owe you a certain amount of money, we're going to keep it'. But when you start playing that game you really start hurting the sanctity of the greatest currency on earth but we can do it in other ways.

'We can do it with tariffs.  We can do it with other ways beyond that without having to play that game - that's a rough game.'

Trump's comments came after reports emerged that US administration officials were discussing canceling US debt obligations to China. 

US intelligence officials and government agencies were scheduled to meet Thursday to come up with a plan to punish or demand financial compensation from China over the pandemic, two sources told the Washington Post.  

One option on the table was to cancel the debt, while another was to strip China of its 'sovereign immunity'.   

George Sorial, who formerly served as a top executive at the Trump Organization and has filed a class-action lawsuit against China, told The Post senior White House officials were discussing limiting China's sovereign immunity so that the government could sue China for damages over the pandemic. 

'Punishing China is definitely where the president's head is at right now,' one senior adviser said. 

A source also told Reuters a range of options are being discussed to punish China, with the State Department, White House National Security Council, Treasury Department and Pentagon, developing options.

'There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly,' they said. 

But some officials told The Post they are advising the president against such action, because this could damage the supply of critical medical goods from China to the US amid the pandemic. 

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry hit back at the US Thursday, warning the 'enemy is the virus, not China'. 

'As for punishment or accountability, as I have repeatedly stated, such rhetoric has no legal basis, and there's no international precedent,' said Geng Shuang. 

'At this time, undermining others' efforts will end up undermining oneself.'

In Thursday's press conference, Trump also cast doubt on the theory the virus jumped from animals, likely a species of bat, to humans, as coronaviruses have in the past.

'We are going to see where it is. We're going to see where it comes from. You know every theory,' Trump said. 

'You had the theory from the lab, you had the theory from many different – the bats, the type of bat. And the bat is 40 miles away so it couldn't have been here or couldn't have been there there. There's a lot of theories,' Trump said.

'But yeah, we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others. And we are going to put it together and have a very good answer eventually,' he said. 

But Trump was also optimistic that China, who US officials have bashed for keeping out experts and failing to fully come clean on the virus, would be forthcoming.
'And China might even tell us. China may tell us,' Trump said. 
Trump was responding to a statement from his own Director of National Intelligence, whose office issued a statement knocking down conspiracy theories on the subject. 
'The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,' it said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also blasted China for its conduct related to the virus, and Chinese state media have hit back in highly personal terms. 
Pompeo on Wednesday accused China of spreading disinformation. He has referred to COVID-19 as the 'Wuhan virus.' 
'The mere fact that we don't know the answers - that China hasn't shared the answers - I think is very, very telling,' said Pompeo. 
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also blasted China for not letting the U.S. in to examine the Wuhan lab
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also blasted China for not letting the U.S. in to examine the Wuhan lab
He also has pushed China to let outside experts into the lab 'so that we can determine precisely where this virus began.'
Senior administration officials are pushing US spy agencies to search for information of the link, the New York Times reported. Some analysts raised concerns the pressure could warp US conclusions and assessments.  
As well as China, the president launched yet another attack on the World Health Organization Thursday.  
'And I think the World Health Organization ashamed of themselves -- because they are like the public relations agency for China,' he said of the UN body based in Geneva during the press conference. 
'And this country pays them almost $500 million a year, and China only pays $38 million a year.'
'They should be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes that are causing thousands of people around the world to die,' Trump said.
He spoke as his U.S. unemployment claims rose by another 3.8 million, U.S. deaths due the virus hit 60,000, and his own electoral prospects are down in battleground polls. 
'We're looking at exactly where it came from, who it came from, how it happened. Separately and also scientifically. So we're going to be able to find that,' Trump said. 
Proximity: The virus has been linked to the wet market in Wuhan, which sold wildlife for meat. U.S. officials have highlighted it being a 'few miles' from the virology laboratory
Proximity: The virus has been linked to the wet market in Wuhan, which sold wildlife for meat. U.S. officials have highlighted it being a 'few miles' from the virology laboratory

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