The idea for the suit originated with Theodore and Russell Berman, the 40-year-old identical twins who run the firm. Outraged by the suggestion from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijain Zhao that the U.S. might be to blame for the virus, they asked Moore and his colleague Jeremy Alters, the firm’s chief litigation strategist, to look into the possibility of a suit. Following the emergence of the virus in early December, the Chinese government actively downplayed the extent of the outbreak, disciplining eight doctors for “rumormongering” and forcing one doctor who’d sounded the alarm in a WeChat group to recant. (He died from the virus shortly thereafter.)

That said, the U.S. government has also actively downplayed the danger of the virus, dismissing warnings by medical professionals and almost certainly exacerbating the problem. The two superpowers have been busily attempting to cast blame onto one another. Despite a reprimand by the WHO, the Trump administration has sought to rebrand Covid-19 the “Chinese virus,” presumably as a way of deflecting attention from its own failures. (Tellingly, the foreign minister’s tweet suggesting the virus originated in the U.S. remains online.)