US President Donald Trump knew the coronavirus was “deadly” and worse than the flu even though he intentionally misled the American public in February and March about the risks, according to an upcoming book by American journalist Bob Woodward.
Trump said in a recorded conversation with Woodward that he had downplayed the risk of the coronavirus from the start because he didn’t want to cause panic, according to a Washington Post report.
“You just have to breathe the air and that’s how it went,” Trump told Woodward during a phone call Feb. 7.
“And so this is a very delicate question. This is a very delicate question. It’s also more deadly than even your intense flu, ”Trump said.
“These are deadly things,” the president repeated to insist, according to the report.
Trump had learned during an intelligence briefing from his national security advisers on Jan.28 that the virus posed a serious threat, according to Woodward’s book Rage and was due for release on Sept.15.
“This will be the greatest national security threat you will face in your presidency,” Robert O’Brien, the president’s national security adviser, told Trump, according to Woodward, who conducted 18 one-on-one interviews with the President. president from December 2019 to July 2020.
“It’ll be the hardest thing you’ll face,” O’Brien told Trump.
After repeated warnings from intelligence services, Trump played down the threat of the virus in public in February and did not sound a public alarm about the risk to the United States.
“We pretty much shut it down from China,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on February 2.
Critics say the president’s slow response and failure to develop a national strategy to fight the virus has resulted in more deaths than necessary and continued economic damage from the pandemic.
The United States has suffered more than 189,000 deaths and recorded more than 6.3 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Trump’s mismanagement of the virus has hurt him politically. Trump has fallen behind his Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in public polls because voters view his response to the pandemic as inadequate.
« He knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. … He knew it and deliberately downplayed it. Worse yet, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willfully lied about the threat this posed to the country for months,« Biden said Wednesday at a campaign event in Warren, Michigan.
Trump and his aides had previously claimed that its slow early reaction to the outbreak was the result of China’s failure to properly warn the world.
“The president has never played down the virus,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said in a press briefing Tuesday after the Washington Post report.
“The president has never lied to the public about COVID. The president has expressed his composure and his actions reflect that, ”McEnany said.
Woodward’s report, however, seems to undermine that narrative.
“I always wanted to downplay it,” Trump told Woodward on March 19.
“I always like to downplay it, because I don’t want to cause panic,” Trump told Woodward in recordings released by The Washington Post.
Breaking: In a taped interview for Bob Woodward’s book, Trump said he knew the coronavirus was ‘deadly’ even as he publicly downplayed the threat https://t.co/LvP9BERURZ
– The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) 9 septembre 2020
Public alarm was not raised in the United States until February 25, when Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing that the virus was coming.
“It’s not so much a question of whether it will happen more, but rather a question of exactly when it will happen,” Messonnier said.
U.S. stock markets fell 3% on the news that day and Trump, returning from India on Air Force One, was angered by the headlines. Messonnier was then dismissed by the White House from further public statements.
“It will go away. One day it’s like a miracle, it’s going to go away, ”Trump said publicly on February 27.
Woodward’s book reveals more derogatory remarks from Trump about US military leaders, his negotiations with North Korean Kim Jong Un, and his views on the Black Lives Matter protests that have reshaped US politics in the past three months.