WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today called upon Secretary Pompeo to release internal documents that would shed light on what information the State Department had during the earliest stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, including about the origins of the virus, communications or warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) and embassies abroad, and Department memos and documents sent to the White House and other federal agencies. The letter also requested internal documents about the Department’s pandemic preparedness.
“As we continue to work to combat this pandemic in the United States and across the globe, we must at the same time ask critical questions to help us identify the cause of the virus, and to understand how our government, and others, responded, including what worked and where improvements are needed,” the Senator wrote. “The answers to these questions are critical, as they may inform ongoing efforts to stop any further spread, limit any subsequent waves of infection, and help us prepare against future pandemics.
For weeks, the Trump administration has lambasted the WHO for its slow response to the COVID-19 outbreak, culminating in a suspension of U.S. funding contributions to the WHO in April. However, throughout January, the WHO issued a series of warnings about the seriousness of the disease, signs that the Trump administration failed to take seriously enough until more than 40 days after the WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern
Senator Menendez’s letter also comes as the Department has not provided any details about what intelligence, if any, the U.S. government has regarding the origins of the virus. As the letter notes, Senator Menendez has been requesting that information for more than a month, to no avail.
In an earlier letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on April 16, 2020, Menendez asked a series of questions to determine when the State Department became aware of the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and what steps it took to act on such information.
A copy of today’s letter can be found HERE and below:
On April 16, 2020, I wrote you regarding the Department’s and the Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that letter, I requested responses to a series of questions about how, when, and through what means the Department learned about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. Among other things, I requested the dates of the Department’s first communications with officials from the WHO and other federal agencies about the suspected outbreak, and relevant cables from U.S. embassies. In addition, I have requested a briefing and any intelligence the Department has regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic for well over a month.
As we continue to work to combat this pandemic in the United States and across the globe, we must at the same time ask critical questions to help us identify the cause of the virus, and to understand how our government, and others, responded, including what worked and where improvements are needed. The answers to these questions are critical, as they may inform ongoing efforts to stop any further spread, limit any subsequent waves of infection, and help us prepare against future pandemics.
Therefore, I ask that you respond to my prior questions and requests for information with urgency, and provide the additional documents requested below.
Please contact my Committee staff to make arrangements for the production of these documents and to provide the previously requested information no later than May 14, 2020.
April 22, 2021