Sen. Bob Menendez sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling upon him to release internal documents to shed light on the department’s history with the coronavirus.
The request would cover information related to the origins of the virus, along with communications and warnings issued from the World Health Organization (WHO), embassies abroad, other federal agencies, and the White House.
“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,” said Sen. Menendez.
Determining a Timeline
Sen. Menendez said that although the White House was openly critical of the WHO for its slow response, it had issued warning about the seriousness of the disease in January.
Additionally, he noted the Trump Administration failed to take the threat seriously until 40 days following the WHO’s declaration that COVID-19 was a public health emergency of international concern.
“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,” explained the senator.
Follow Up on Previous Letter
Sen. Menendez sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo April 16 regarding intelligence related to the origins of the virus. The senator had been requesting the information for nearly a month with no result.
The previous letter asked at what point the State Department determined the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, asking what the agency had done to prepare for its arrival in the U.S.
In addition, the letter requested the department’s existing pandemic response plan. Sen. Menendez gave the department until May 14 to deliver the information.
Documents Being Sought
Among the items being requested are all State Department cables relating to COVID-19 since Nov. 1, 2019; to the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention Lab in Wuhan, China since Jan. 1, 2018; to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and China since June 1, 2019; and to the WHO from since Nov. 1, 2019.
Additionally, all records relating to COVID-19 sent, received by, or copying Sec. Pompeo, the Deputy Secretary, the Undersecretary for Management, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, or the U.S. Ambassador to China; all documents and memoranda drafted or prepared by the Bureau of Medical Services (MED), including MED/Clinical Services, sent to the Director of National Intelligence or National Security Council, or National Security Advisor, from Jan. 1, 2020 through March 1, 2020; all documents related to the department’s pandemic preparedness or response plan, including a copy of the plan as of Jan. 1, 2020; and all cables relating to pandemic preparedness or response starting Jan. 1, 2019.