Bob Woodward: Trump Admitted He Was Intentionally Playing Down The Pandemic
Famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward writes in his new book “Rage” that President Donald Trump knew weeks before the first coronavirus death in the U.S. that the virus was dangerous but played it down anyway, CNN reports.
"This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7.
In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. "Pretty amazing," Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times "more deadly" than the flu.
Trump's admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was "going to disappear" and "all work out fine."
Woodward reports that Trump told him in early February that he knew how deadly the virus was, and then in March, the president admitted he kept it hidden from the public.
"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
Woodward also revealed new details on early warnings the president received but often ignored, CNN noted:
In a January 28 top secret intelligence briefing, national security adviser Robert O'Brien gave Trump a "jarring" warning about the virus, telling the President it would be the "biggest national security threat" of his presidency. Trump's head "popped up," Woodward writes.
O'Brien's deputy, Matt Pottinger, concurred, telling Trump it could be as bad as the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. Pottinger warned Trump that asymptomatic spread was occurring in China: He had been told 50% of those infected showed no symptoms.
Three days later, Trump announced restrictions on travel from China, a move suggested by his national security team -- despite Trump's later claims that he alone backed the travel limitations.
Nevertheless, Trump continued to publicly downplay the danger of the virus. February was a lost month. Woodward views this as a damning missed opportunity for Trump to reset "the leadership clock" after he was told this was a "once-in-a-lifetime health emergency."