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Navy SEAL vet Rep. Crenshaw wants to let Americans sue China over COVID-19 damages

Congressman Dan Crenshaw speaks at a Texas Public Policy Foundation event in Austin on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. (LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN, TNS).
June 24, 2021

On Wednesday, former U.S. Navy SEAL veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) reintroduced a bill that would allow Americans to sue the Chinese government over damages incured from the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.

“China lied and tried to cover up their role in starting and spreading this global pandemic. At best, China lied about when they knew about the virus, jailed journalists and disappeared doctors who dared to tell the truth, and failed to inform the rest of the world immediately about the pandemic,” Crenshaw said. “And, at worst – even though a year ago the press smeared anyone who said this as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ – China did all of this because they knew the virus escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that they were directly responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The evidence and commonsense strongly supports this, and we need a full investigation into the origins of the pandemic so we can get to the truth.”

Crenshaw added, “The bottom line is that China is at fault for this. People died and lives were destroyed and Americans should have the right to sue the Chinese government.”

Last year, Crenshaw introduced a similar bill to allow Americans to sue the Chinese government over the coronavirus outbreak. Crenshaw’s decision to again push for that legislation now comes amid growing evidence in support of the theory that the COVID-19 outbreak began with an outbreak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Crenshaw said his legislation ultimately allows the Chinese government to “come to an agreement to settle” the COVID-19 damage claims and dismiss the lawsuits.

“In other words, China can take responsibility and agree to pay for the damage it has caused,” Crenshaw said. “Or it can face potentially millions of claims in federal court.”

Crenshaw said his legislation is modeled after the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which lawmakers passed and President Barack Obama signed into law, that allowed U.S. victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in the attacks.

In 2016, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act on a vote of 348 to 77. Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the legislation by a vote of 97 to 1.

It remains to be seen if Saudi Arabia or any other foreign government will be successfully sued as a direct result of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

In September 2020, ABC News reported a lawsuit against the Saudi government, brought by the families of 9/11 victims, was progressing through a federal court in New York and that a federal magistrate ordered the Saudi government to produce two dozen Saudi officials for depositions, despite objections by Saudi Arabia that those officials were protected through diplomatic immunity. On Wednesday, The Guardian reported some Saudi officials have been deposed but that their testimony and other evidence is being kept secret through a gag order.