Government/Health/National Security

Pentagon issues rare public denial of reports claiming early warning about COVID-19

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, listens as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces that since January the State Department has brought back some 50,000 Americans stranded overseas due to the coronavirus outbreak, during the coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

(USA Features) A Pentagon intelligence agency issued a rare public rebuke of press reports claiming that it provided an early warning about the severity of the coronavirus.

Citing anonymous sources, ABC News claimed that the National Center for Medical Intelligence, or the NCMI, released a report in November detailing concerns about a possible outbreak.

The agency issued a statement noting that no such report exists.

“As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” Shane Day, the director of the NCMI, said in a statement.

“However, in the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists,” Day added.

A Department of Defense official added that the “NCMI and the Defense Intelligence Agency spent considerable time over the last 24 hours examining every possible product that could have been identified as related to this topic and have found no such product.”

ABC News cited “two officials familiar with the document’s contents.” The way the story is presented suggests that the two reporters whose bylines appeared did not see the alleged document.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump was asked about the alleged report and when he first found out about the virus.

“Well, I learned when I started—when I learned about the gravity of it was sometime just prior to closing the country to China,” he said.

“And when we closed up the flights coming in from China and various other elements—and then, as you know, we closed up to Europe. So, I don’t know exactly, but I’d like to see the information,” the president added.

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