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Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell. Photo: Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) announced in a statement Thursday that it is investigating whether the coronavirus pandemic began through human contact with wild animals in China or if it was the result of a laboratory accident in Wuhan.

Why it matters: The ODNI said it concurs with the scientific consensus that the virus was "not manmade or genetically modified." The statement comes after some U.S. officials have promoted an unsubstantiated theory linking the virus to an infectious-disease lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The big picture: Senior Trump administration officials have pushed U.S. spy agencies to find evidence supporting the theory, the New York Times reports.

  • China has denied the allegation, but senior Chinese officials have also pushed their own theories linking the coronavirus to a military laboratory in the U.S.
  • The coronavirus crisis has sent U.S.-China relations spiraling, alarming analysts who say the two countries are at their most dangerous point in decades, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

Go deeper: What we know about the Chinese lab at the center of the coronavirus controversy

Go deeper

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - World

China says U.S. is "endangering peace" with high-level visit to Taiwan

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.