Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In the past week or so, Americans have been inundated with intelligence reports and other information relating to the origins of the coronavirus. Yet these leaks seem at times to present conflicting information.

The big picture: The U.S. is bullish on the possibility that the coronavirus outbreak started with a lab accident in China. But U.S. allies say that's unlikely.

What's happening: In leaked reports and recent statements, U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized the possibility that the epidemic resulted from accidental transmission in a Chinese lab, perhaps the Wuhan Institute of Virology,

  • A set of leaked State Department cables from officials who visited the WIV on January 2018, and published by the Washington Post on April 14, warned of safety issues at the lab.
  • The messages also noted that the lab's research on coronaviruses from bats showed that such viruses had potential for human-to-human transmission and thus posed a risk of pandemic.
  • Anonymous officials told Fox News on April 15 that the U.S. government has "increasing confidence" that the epidemic started accidentally at a Chinese lab.

But here's where it starts to get complicated:

  • In a rare public statement on April 30, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the intelligence community was still investigating the matter, implying they did not have that degree of certainty.
  • What they're saying: "The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.” 

The next day, however, President Trump seemed to contradict his own intelligence agencies by emphasizing the link once again.

  • Trump said on May 1 that he has a "high degree of confidence" that the outbreak originated in a lab accident in China.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a May 3 interview: "While the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan."

But, but, but: U.S. allies who have had access to shared intelligence don't seem to agree with that assessment.

The Five Eyes dossier: A 15-page report prepared by governments of the Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing partnership between the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., found:

  • China's cover-up in the early days of the epidemic cost tens of thousands of lives, but it doesn't place the blame squarely on a lab.
  • The Australian government believes there is just a 5% chance the virus came from the WIV and says it more likely originated in a wet market.

Anonymous Western officials then told CNN it was "highly unlikely" the coronavirus spread via a lab accident, citing an intelligence report seen by the Five Eyes countries.

The bottom line: The U.S. position is increasingly at odds with what its intelligence-sharing partners are saying.

Go deeper: The Chinese lab at the center of the coronavirus controversy

Go deeper

Aug 5, 2020 - World

Pentagon chief says "most believe" Beirut blast was an accident

Esper. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Aspen Security Forum Wednesday that "most believe" the explosions that rocked Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday were the product of some kind of accident.

Why it matters: President Trump claimed at a press conference Tuesday that he had spoken to generals who "seem to feel that this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event," and that it was "a bomb of some kind." The remarks set off confusion and prompted anonymous defense officials to tell CNN and AP that there is no indication yet that the blasts were an attack.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

5 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.