Who is David Asher? Ex-Trump official says Covid-19 didn't come from bats: 'It's ridiculous'

Former State Department official David Asher, who was part of the US probe into the Wuhan lab, said Covid-19 virus did not originate from bats


                            Who is David Asher? Ex-Trump official says Covid-19 didn't come from bats: 'It's ridiculous'
Covid-19 outbreak in the US and former State Department official David Asher (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/ Hudson Institute)

A conspiracy theory that the Covid-19 virus leaked from a Wuhan lab in China has gained steam after shocking revelations by a former State Department official. David Asher, who was part of the team investigating the origins of the virus, told Fox News that the virus did not originate from bats. 

Covid-19 is widely believed to have originated from bats and it reportedly made its way into humans via wet markets in China. That's the leading theory for the disease, but over the past year, the Donald Trump administration has been singing a different song. In May 2020, the ex-president said, "I think you can take the word ‘potential’ out that it came from the lab." Republicans have been pushing the theory that the virus was created by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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Chinese police officers wear protective masks as they stand in formation next to a national flag at half staff just before three minutes of silence to mark the country's national day of mourning for Covid-19 at Beijing Railway Station on April 4, 2020, in Beijing, China (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The origins of the virus have been a contentious battle between China and the rest of the world. The Trump administration blames China, while the Chinese government says it did not come from their lab. The investigation by the State Department, which Asher was a part of, was recently canceled by President Joe Biden. Instead, Biden has tasked intelligence agencies to find out the origin. 

While the debate of where the virus came from heats up, Asher's latest statements lend credibility to Trump's claims. Here's everything we know about Asher, and why his claims shouldn't be dismissed like Trump's.

A passenger walks past a notice for passengers from Wuhan, China, displayed near a quarantine station at Narita airport on January 17, 2020, in Narita, Japan (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Who is David Asher?

A financial expert with decades of experience, Asher is currently serving as a senior research fellow at the Hudson Institute. He has degrees from some of the most reputed institutes in the world, including a BA from Cornell, a DPhil from Oxford University and a post DOC from MIT. Asher has also studied at Harvard University and the London School of Economics. He began his career at the Department of Defence, where he served as a policy planning advisor.

Under the George W Bush administration, Asher served on the National Security Council and the State Department. Then in 2005, he turned to the private industry. He returned to government service in 2009, first with Special Operations Command and then with the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 2014, he became a senior advisor at the State Department, before quitting in 2015 to once again join the private businesses.

Between 2010 and 2019, he served as an adjunct senior fellow at the Centre for New American Security and has been involved with the Foundation of Defence Democracies (FDD) since 2016. In February 2020, he returned to the State Department and is still employed there, as per his LinkedIn profile. He is considered to be an expert in "countering money laundering, terrorism financing and sanctions evasion", according to FDD. During his time in federal employment, Asher "developed and oversaw the global targeting and disruption of the Kim Jong Il regime’s financial, illicit trading and WMD networks".

Asher has also been involved in operations against the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Iran. Since 2020, he has been advising the federal government on "investigations into nuclear biological and chemical weapons proliferation". It was in that capacity, Pompeo tipped Asher to lead the investigation into Covid-19's origins under the State Department's Arms Verification Control bureau. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news briefing at the State Department February 25, 2020, in Washington, DC (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'To say this came out of a zoonotic situation, it's ridiculous'

The investigation by the Trump administration is not tied to that being done by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO widely supports the belief that the virus originated from bats, but Asher's team has a different theory. "The data disproportionately stacked up as we investigated that it was coming out of a lab or some supernatural source," he told Fox News on Thursday, May 27. Asher added, "We were finding that despite the claims of our scientific community, including the National Institutes of Health and Dr Fauci's NIAID organization, there was almost no evidence that supported a natural, zoonotic evolution or source of Covid-19."

At the center of the claims is the Wuhan lab, which was known to be investigating bat coronaviruses at the time. "That was the epicenter of synthetic biology in the People's Republic of China, and they were up to some very hairy stuff with synthetic biology and so-called gain-of-function techniques," he said, adding, "To say this came out of a zoonotic situation, it's ridiculous." 

A woman wears a mask while walking a dog on January 22, 2020, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China (Getty Images)

In 2020, the theory was widely dismissed by experts but Trump continued to state that China was to blame. In early April, Trump said the theory made "sense", and a week later said he had a “high degree of confidence” in the theory. Fauci and Biden have widely downplayed that theory, but like the WHO concluded that more investigations were needed. The State Department's probe has now been parked, with Biden handing over the responsibilities of the investigation to intelligence agencies.

However, the president hasn't explicitly ruled out the theory that Covid-19 came from the Wuhan lab, suggesting that is an angle the agencies will continue to probe. Biden ordered the investigation on May 27 and said they had a deadline of 90 days. Washington is also pushing the WHO for a "second phase", while China continues to fight back. 

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