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Donald Trump Indicted Over Hush Money

NEW YORK, March 31: Former US President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury on Friday in a case where hush money was paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign. He is the first former US President to face criminal charge. Trump slammed the prosecutors and his political opponents, calling it a "witch-hunt".

Stormy Daniels, meanwhile, welcomed the verdict saying this proves no one is above the law. Later, on Twitter, she thanked people for the "support and love" extended to her.

But this is not the only case Trump was facing. He has under scrutiny of the Department of Justice (DoJ) for attempted election subversion and incitement of the January 6, 2021 attack on US Congress.

Investigators are probing Trump's role in provoking the violence as part of a broader alleged effort to cling to power after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

In the latest development in the case, a US judge has ordered former vice president Mike Pence to testify about his conversations with Donald Trump leading up to the 2021 assault on the Capitol. However, Pence can decline to discuss his actions on the day of the insurrection itself, according to a news agency. The incident was linked to several deaths, left more than 100 police officers wounded and led to more than 1,000 arrests.

Separately, Trump is also facing a federal investigation into his handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office. The prosecutors are looking at whether the former US President willfully retained national security information and obstructed justice.

The federal appeals court has rejected Trump team's twin efforts to block its order asking the former US President's main lawyer to provide his notes and audio transcripts.

In June, lawyer Evan Corcoran searched Mar-a-Lago and produced about 30 documents with classified markings to the justice department.

Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for alleged attempted election inference. In that case, Fulton county prosecutor, Fani Willis, has requested a grand jury. It recommended indictments, against whom is not known.

The former president also faces a defamation trial arising from an allegation of rape made by the writer E Jean Carroll, an allegation Trump denies.

Biden Expresses Concern Over Putin's Plan To Deploy Nukes In Belarus

WASHINGTON, March 29: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin's stated plan to deploy nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus, branding it "dangerous" talk.

"This is dangerous kind of talk and it's worrisome," Biden told reporters at the White House.

The Kremlin leader announced on Saturday that he was ordering the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, run by fellow authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko as one of Russia's closest allies.

Washington has denounced the plan, which follows more than a year of Moscow's attempt to conquer pro-Western Ukraine -- a neighbor of both Russia and Belarus.

However, US officials say they have seen no sign of Russia actually moving nuclear weaponry.

"They haven't done that yet," Biden said.

After Russia suspends ‘New START treaty’, US to not give nuclear data to Moscow

WASHINGTON, Mar 28: The United States has told Russia it will not exchange data on its nuclear forces, a White House spokesperson said on Tuesday, describing the change as a response to Moscow's decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty.

"Under international law, the United States has the right to respond to Russia's breaches of the New START Treaty by taking proportionate and reversible countermeasures in order to induce Russia to return to compliance with its obligations," a spokesperson for the National Security Council said.

"That means that because Russia's claimed suspension of the New START Treaty is legally invalid, the U.S. is legally permitted to withhold our biannual data update in response to Russia's breaches," the spokesperson added.

On Feb. 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty with the United States that limits the two sides' deployed strategic nuclear arsenals.

Putin stressed that Russia was not withdrawing from the treaty but the suspension further imperils the last remaining pillar of arms control between the United States and Russia, which between them hold nearly 90% of the world's nuclear warheads - enough to destroy the planet many times over.

Signed in 2010 and due to expire in 2026, the treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the countries can deploy. Under its terms, Moscow and Washington may deploy no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and 700 land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

3 Children Among 6 Dead In US School Shooting

WASHINGTON, March 27: Three children and three adults were killed when an assailant opened fire at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday, according to officials and media reports. He had "at least" two assault rifles and a handgun, police said.

The city's police reported "an active shooter event" at The Covenant School on Twitter, saying the shooter had been killed in an exchange with police.

The Nashville Fire Department confirmed "multiple patients" with media including NBC and The New York Times citing a hospital spokesperson confirming three children had been killed.

"Three pediatric patients were transported to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, all having suffered gunshot wounds," Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesperson John Howser was quoted as saying. "All three were pronounced dead after arrival."

The Covenant School is a private Christian institution with students in preschool to roughly age 12.

23 Dead As Massive Tornado Tears Through US Town

MISSISSIPPI, March 25: At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured as a tornado and strong thunderstorms swept across Mississippi late on Friday, the state's emergency management agency said after the twister left a trail of damage for more than 100 miles (160 km).

Four people were missing as search and rescue teams combed through the destruction looking for survivors after the storm struck Silver City, a town of 200 people in Western Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said in a series of tweets.

"Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to change," it said, referring to the death count.

Search and rescue teams were also out in Rolling Fork, a town of 1,700 people that saw the brunt of the tornado, CNN reported.

"I've never seen anything like this," Brandy Showah said. "This was a very great small town, and now it's gone."

Showah told the network that her grandmother's house suffered damage.

"My friend was trapped in her home a few houses down, but we got her out," Showah said, adding that there were people who live next to her grandmother still trapped in their houses.

Rolling Fork was "pretty much devastated" and many people remained trapped in their homes, United Cajun Navy President Todd Terrell told ABC News. His group is a team of volunteer rescuers.

Terrell compared the destruction to a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 that killed 161 people.

At least 24 reports of tornadoes were issued to the National Weather Service on Friday night and into Saturday morning by storm chasers and observers. The reports stretched from the western edge of Mississippi north through the center of the state and into Alabama.

Photographs of the destruction published by news networks showed entire buildings left in rubble and cars turned over on their sides as people climbed through the debris in darkness.

"Many in the MS Delta need your prayer and God's protection tonight," Governor Tate Reeve said in a tweet.

"We have activated medical support-surging more ambulances and other emergency assets for those affected. Search and rescue is active."

Biden Signs Law Declassifying Intel On Covid Origin And Wuhan Link

WASHINGTON, March 21: US President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a bill requiring the release of intelligence materials on potential links between the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"We need to get to the bottom of COVID-19's origins..., including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Biden said in a statement.

"In implementing this legislation, my administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible," he added.

"I share the Congress's goal of releasing as much information as possible about the origin" of Covid, he said.

Biden said that in 2021, after taking office, he had "directed the Intelligence Community to use every tool at its disposal to investigate."

That work is "ongoing," but as much as possible will be released without causing "harm to national security," he said.

The bill posed political risks for Biden, who is negotiating a difficult relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Beijing vehemently rejects the possibility that a leak during research at the Wuhan lab could have unleashed the global pandemic.

However, much of Congress wants to pursue the theory further, and the issue has become a rallying point in particular for Biden's Republican opponents.

Congress passed and sent the bill to Biden in March.

The Covid outbreak began in 2019 in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan, leading to almost seven million deaths worldwide so far, according to official counts, over a million of them in the United States.

But health officials and the US intelligence community remain divided over whether it was spread randomly to humans from an infected animal or leaked during research undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The US Energy Department -- one of the US agencies investigating the disaster -- concluded with "low confidence" that the virus probably came from a lab, agreeing with the assessment of the FBI, but contradicting the conclusions of several other agencies.

Eric Garcetti's Nomination As India Envoy Cleared By US Senate

WASHINGTON, March 15: Eric Garcetti, President Joe Biden's close aide, was confirmed as US Ambassador to India after the Senate on Wednesday voted on his nomination, filling a key diplomatic position after a gap of two years.

The Senate voted 52-42 advancing the former Los Angeles mayor's nomination that caps off months of stasis for Garcetti.

The former mayor's nomination was pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was nominated for the prestigious diplomatic posting by Biden. The position has remained vacant for more than two years.

Garcetti's nomination was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote during the last Congress as the ruling Democratic Party did not have enough support to get him through.

The 52-year-old was not confirmed by the Senate in President Biden's first two years in office amid concerns by some lawmakers that the then-mayor had not adequately handled allegations against a former senior adviser of sexual assault and harassment.

Second US Bank Collapses, Fed Says Will Ensure Depositors' Savings Safe

WASHINGTON, March 13: US authorities unveiled sweeping measures Sunday to rescue depositors' money in full from failed Silicon Valley Bank and to promise other institutions help in meeting customers' needs, as they announced a second tech-friendly bank had been closed by regulators.

In a joint statement, financial agencies including the US Treasury said SVB depositors would have access to "all of their money" starting Monday, March 13, and that American taxpayers will not have to foot the bill.

The US Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Treasury said depositors in Signature Bank, a New York-based regional-size lender with significant cryptocurrency exposure which was shuttered on Sunday after its stock price tanked, would also be "made whole."

And in a potentially major development, the Fed announced it would make extra funding available to banks to help them meet the needs of depositors, which would include withdrawals.

"We are taking decisive actions to protect the US economy by strengthening public confidence in our banking system," the agencies said in their joint statement.

"The US banking system remains resilient and on a solid foundation," due in large part due to reforms undertaken after the financial crisis of 2008 that introduced new safeguards for the banking industry.

"Those reforms combined with today's actions demonstrate our commitment to take the necessary steps to ensure that depositors' savings remain safe."

The FDIC guarantees deposits -- but only up to $250,000 per client and per bank.

Federal banking law, however, would allow the FDIC to protect uninsured deposits if a failure to do so would pose systemic risks, the Washington Post reported.

Regulators on Friday took control of SVB -- a key lender to startups across the United States since the 1980s -- after a huge run on deposits left the medium-sized bank unable to stay afloat on its own.

Hours before Sunday's joint statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government wants to avoid financial "contagion" from the SVB implosion, as it ruled out a bailout.

With the bank's future, and its billions in deposits, up in the air, officials from the three agencies raced to craft a solution just hours before financial markets opened in Asia, and to avert a potential financial panic.

Yellen told CBS that the US government wanted "to make sure that the troubles that exist at one bank don't create contagion to others that are sound."

She added that the government was working with the FDIC on a "resolution" of the situation at SVB, where some 96 percent of deposits are not covered by the FDIC's reimbursement guarantee.

Investors punished the banking sector in total on Thursday after SVB disclosed the extent of its troubles the day before, but by Friday, shares in some larger banks posted gains.

Despite attempts by US officials to assure the financial markets, regional lenders remained under pressure.

They included the First Republic Bank, which slumped nearly 30 percent in two sessions on Thursday and Friday, and Signature Bank, which lost a third of its value since Wednesday evening -- and which was shuttered on Sunday.

Amid concerns overseas, Tokyo stocks opened lower on Monday, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index down 0.92 percent.

Since Friday, there have been calls from the tech and finance sectors for a bailout.

Yellen said reforms made after the 2008 financial crisis meant the government was not considering this option for SVB.

"During the financial crisis, there were investors and owners of systemic large banks that were bailed out... and the reforms that have been put in place means that we're not going to do that again," she said.

In their joint statement on the latest bank woes and efforts to protect depositors of SBV and Signature, the agencies stressed shareholders and certain unsecured debtholders will not be protected and that senior management has been removed.

Following the 2008 failure of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing financial meltdown, US regulators required major banks to hold additional capital in case of trouble.

US and European authorities also organize regular "stress tests" designed to uncover vulnerabilities at the largest banks.

SVB's implosion represents not only the largest bank failure since Washington Mutual in 2008, but also the second largest failure ever for a US retail bank.

Little known to the general public, SVB specialized in financing startups and had become the 16th largest US bank by assets: at the end of 2022, it had $209 billion in assets and approximately $175.4 billion in deposits.

The company previously boasted that "nearly half" of technology and life science companies that had US funding banked with them, leading many to worry about the possible ripple effects of its collapse.

Silicon Valley Bank Collapses, Biggest Banking Failure Since 2008

CALIFORNIA, March 11: Silicon Valley Bank, known for lending money to some of the biggest technology startups, collapsed on Friday sending investors and depositors into a frenzy. The closure has also resulted in global markets falling sharply today.

The Silicon Valley Bank was closed on Friday by California banking regulators. This is the biggest retail banking failure since the global financial crisis in 2008.

US regulators shuttered Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on Friday and took control of its deposits, in what amounts to the biggest retail banking failure since the global financial crisis.

The move came after a dramatic 48 hours that saw the high-tech lender's share price plummet amid a run on deposits by concerned customers.

After making a huge fortune by investing in tech startups, Silicon Valley Bank invested most of its assets in US bonds. To bring down the inflation rates, the federal reserve last year began raising interest rates, which resulted in the bond values going down.

Startup funding also started to dry up after the Covid pandemic, resulting in a high number of the bank's clients withdrawing money. To honor their requests, Silicon Valley Bank was forced to sell some of its investments when though their value had declined.

In a disclosure earlier this week, the bank said it had lost nearly $2 billion.

After the bank's closure, nearly $175 billion of customer deposits are now under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

The FDIC has created a new bank, the National Bank of Santa Clara, which will now hold all the assets of Silicon Valley Bank.

Assuring the depositors, the FDIC said that they will have full access to their insured deposits after all the branches of the bank open on Monday morning. The financial body also said that cheques of the old bank would also be honoured.

SVB's abrupt demise has left legions of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in the lurch and livid. In Washington, politicians are drawing up sides, with Biden administration officials expressing "full confidence" in regulators.

India, US Decide To Launch Strategic Trade Dialogue

NEW DELHI, March 9: In a significant move, India and the US on Thursday decided to launch a strategic trade dialogue to address export controls, explore ways of enhancing high technology commerce, and facilitate technology transfers.

The decision to launch the new framework of dialogue was taken at a meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and visiting US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

"The external affairs minister and secretary Raimondo agreed to launch a India-US Strategic Trade Dialogue, led by Foreign Secretary from Ministry of External Affairs of India and Under Secretary, Bureau of Industry and Security in US Department of Commerce," the Ministry of External Affairs said.

"The Strategic Trade Dialogue will address export controls, explore ways of enhancing high technology commerce, and facilitate technology transfer between the two countries," it said.

The Ministry of External Affairs said S Jaishankar and Gina Raimondo had a productive discussion about the India-US strategic partnership and ongoing efforts to deepen the economic and commercial engagement between the two countries, including through the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

"They also concurred on the need for increased bilateral strategic and high technology trade given the shared priorities of both countries in building resilient and trusted global supply chains," the Ministry of external Affairs said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden in May last year launched the IPEF, which is an initiative aimed at deeper cooperation among like-minded countries in areas such as clean energy, supply-chain resilience and digital trade "Great pleasure to meet US Secretary of Commerce @SecRaimondo this evening. Conversation covered strategic trade, resilient and reliable supply chains and trust and transparency in the digital domain,' S Jaishankar tweeted.

US Deployment To Syria Worth The Risk, Says Top US General After Visit

NORTHEAST SYRIA, March 5: The nearly eight-year-old US deployment to Syria to combat Islamic State is still worth the risk, the top US military officer said on Saturday, after a rare, unannounced visit to a dusty base in the country's northeast to meet U.S. troops.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Syria to assess efforts to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist group and review safeguards for American forces against attacks, including from drones flown by Iran-backed militia.

While Islamic State is a shadow of the group that ruled over a third of Syria and Iraq in a Caliphate declared in 2014, hundreds of fighters are still camped in desolate areas where neither the US-led coalition nor the Syrian army, with support from Russia and Iranian-backed militias, exert full control.

Thousands of other Islamic State fighters are in detention facilities guarded by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, America's key ally in the country.

American officials say that Islamic State could still regenerate into a major threat.

But the mission, which former President Donald Trump nearly ended in 2018 before softening his withdrawal plans, is remnant of the larger global war against terrorism that had included once the war in Afghanistan and a far larger US military deployment to Iraq.

Asked by reporters traveling with him if he believed the Syria deployment of roughly 900 US troops to Syria was worth the risk, Milley tied the mission to the security of the United States and its allies, saying: "If you think that that's important, then the answer is 'Yes.'"

"I happen to think that's important," Milley said.

"So I think that an enduring defeat of ISIS and continuing to support our friends and allies in the region ... I think those are important tasks that can be done."

The mission carries risk. Four US troops were wounded during a helicopter raid last month when an Islamic State leader triggered an explosion.

Last month, the US military shot down an Iranian-made drone in Syria that was attempting to conduct reconnaissance on a patrol base in northeastern Syria.

Three drones targeted a US base in January in Syria's Al-Tanf region. The US military said two of the drones were shot down while the remaining drone hit the compound, injuring two members of the Syrian Free Army forces.

US officials believe drone and rocket attacks are being directed by Iran-backed militia, a reminder of the complex geopolitics of Syria where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad counts on support from Iran and Russia and sees US troops as occupiers.

America's NATO ally Turkey has also threatened a broad offensive in Syria that would threaten the US military's Syrian Kurdish partners, who Ankara views as terrorists.

US Army Major General Matthew McFarlane, who commands the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, described attacks against US forces as a "distraction from our main mission."

McFarlane cited progress against Islamic State, including through the reduction in the numbers of internally displaced people at refugee camps -- a pool of vulnerable people who could be recruited by Islamic State.

The al-Hol camp houses around more than 50,000 people, including Syrians, Iraqis and other nationals who fled the conflict, and McFarlane estimated around 600 babies were born there every year.

Lieutenant Kamal Alsawafy from the Michigan National Guard is one of the US soldiers in Syria helping provide security for Iraqis leaving al-Hol to be repatriated back to Iraq in protected convoys.

The son of Iraqi refugees who emigrated to the United States, Alsawafy said helping Iraqi refugees brings him joy and described watching people at al-Hol cheering as Iraqis departed the camps for better lives back in Iraq.

"It's a good feeling," Alsawafy said.

McFarlane said he believed there would come a time when US partners in Syria could manage on their own. But there is no publicly known target date to complete that transition.

"Over time, I do envision us transitioning when the conditions are met, where our partners can independently have a sustainable capacity and capability to keep ISIS in check," he said.

US Attorney General Makes Surprise Visit To Ukraine

WASHINGTON, March 4: US Attorney General Merrick Garland made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Friday and vowed to hold "Russian war criminals accountable" for their actions.

"We are here today in Ukraine to speak clearly, and with one voice: the perpetrators of those crimes will not get away with them," Garland said.

He went to Lviv in western Ukraine at the invitation of his Ukrainian counterpart to take part in the "United for Justice Conference."

Garland told the conference the United States stood beside Ukraine's war crimes investigators as they collect and catalogue evidence from blast sites that include hospitals, apartment buildings and schools, exhume mass graves and study human remains -- "in order to tell the stories of those who no longer can," according to a Justice Department transcript of his remarks.

Since the invasion began a year ago, Russia has been committing atrocities on the largest scale of any conflict since World War II, he said.

The United States has signed an agreement with Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Romania "that will strengthen our efforts to hold Russian war criminals accountable," he said.

The visit, Garland's second to Ukraine since the start of the conflict in February 2022, was not announced ahead of time for security reasons.

It came nearly two weeks after US President Joe Biden paid a visit to Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The United States is helping Ukraine investigate war crimes and Garland this week branded Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia's mercenary Wagner military force, a war criminal.

In a statement issued on February 24 to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, Garland said his department is "standing with our Ukrainian partners in pursuit of justice."

US Vice President Kamala Harris accused Russia last month of committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine, saying Moscow's forces had conducted "widespread and systemic" attacks on the country's civilian population.

Nikki Haley Attacks Trump Over His Age

WASHINGTON, March 4: Republican White House contender Nikki Haley on Friday stepped up attacks on Donald Trump over his age -- without naming the ex-president directly -- calling on conservatives at a national forum to trust a "new generation" of leaders.

The former South Carolina governor sharply criticized Republican losses in recent elections, during which 76-year-old Trump tried to serve as kingmaker.

"If you're tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation," Haley urged attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held just outside Washington.

Haley, 51, who Trump tapped in 2017 to serve as United Nations ambassador, is the first candidate of note to challenge the billionaire for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

She has so far centered her attacks on her competitor's age, calling again Friday for a "competency test" for politicians older than 75.

Trump and Haley are giving dueling addresses at the conference, with the former president scheduled to take the stage late Saturday afternoon.

More than two years after leaving the White House, Trump's hold on the party is still evident, with the prestigious closing speech reserved for him once again.

Several members of his family have already given speeches at the conference singing his praise.

Trump's keynote is likely to reprise the "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) agenda that swept him to power in 2016, taking on border security, gun rights, "woke" attitudes and other red meat conservative issues.

Near Bomb-Grade Level Uranium Found in Iran Nuclear Plant, Says UN Agency

WASHINGTON, March 1: Uranium particles enriched to near bomb-grade levels have been found at an Iranian nuclear facility, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Quoting a report, CNN said the uranium particles were found enriched to 83.7 per cent purity - close to the 90 per cent enrichment levels needed to make a nuclear bomb. The Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), where these particles have been found, is an underground facility located nearly 20 miles (32 kilometres) northeast of the city of Qom, said CNN.

The IAEA took the environmental samples at the plant on January 22, which showed the highly enriched uranium particles.

The United Nations body also informed Iran that these findings are "inconsistent with the level of enrichment at the Fordow plant as declared by Iran and requested Iran to clarify the origins of these particles," as per CNN.

"These events clearly indicate the capability of the agency to detect and report in a timely manner changes in the operation of nuclear facilities in Iran," it continued.

Asked about the presence of the particles, Iran said that "unintended fluctuations" during the enrichment process "may have occurred".

The report further said that Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched up to 60 per cent has gone up by 87.5 kg since the last report in November, 2022.

A US State Department spokesperson on Tuesday said the IAEA report potentially poses a "very serious development".

Iran has been enriching uranium well over the limits laid down in a landmark 2015 deal with world powers, which started to unravel when the United States withdrew from it in 2018.

The deal was designed to give Iran much-needed sanctions relief in return for curbs on its atomic programme.

On and off negotiations between world powers to return to the deal started in 2021 but have stalled since last year.

'Classified' Report Says Covid Likely Caused By China Lab Leak: FBI Chief

WASHINGTON, March 1: FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday the agency has assessed that a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, likely caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Wray told Fox News.

His comments follow a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that the U.S. Energy Department has assessed with low confidence the pandemic resulted from an unintended lab leak in China.

Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided, the Journal reported.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the U.S. government has not reached a definitive conclusion and consensus on the pandemic's origins.

China's foreign ministry, asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, which was confirmed by other U.S. media, referred to a WHO-China report that pointed toward a natural origin for the pandemic, rather than a lab leak.

Wray said he couldn't share many details of the agency's assessment because they were classified.




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