Woodward Book: Trump said he Knew Virus was Deadly but still Played down the Danger

U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed to a journalist early in the coronavirus pandemic that he played down the danger of the pandemic and the health crisis despite having evidence to the contrary, according to a latest book.

Trump had “Startling Facts”

 “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump acknowledged to the author Bob Woodward on March 19, days after he announced a national emergency. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

On Wednesday, CNN broadcast interviews Woodward did with Trump for his new book “Rage.” The book will be available from next Tuesday, just weeks before the November 3 presidential election. It is coming amid scrutiny of Trump’s efforts to combat COVID-19.

The Republican president, berated by his Democratic opponent Joe Biden over the sluggish U.S. government response to the coronavirus, played down the crisis for months as it took hold and spread across the whole country.

In the March 19 conversation, Trump said to Woodward that some “startling facts” had risen displaying the extent of those at risk: “It’s not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people.”

Many People are Dead

On Wednesday, Trump defended his handling of the virus, which has resulted in the loss of over 190,000 people in the United States.

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened,” Trump said at the White House. “We’ve done well from any standard.”

According to the interviews, Trump had the idea that the virus was dangerous in early February.

“It goes through the air,” Trump stated in a recording of a February 7 interview with Woodward. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it transmits.

“And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

A week following that interview, Trump said at a White House briefing that the number of U.S. coronavirus cases “within a couple days is going to be down close to zero.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Woodward defended himself from online critics who asked why he didn’t disclose Trump’s comments for months as a pandemic raged.

“He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?” Woodward said in a phone interview.

Republican Defenders

Some fellow Republicans defended Trump’s coronavirus response on Wednesday.

“His actions of shutting the economy down were the right actions,” Senator Lindsey Graham said. “And I think the tone during that time sort of spoke for itself.”

Woodward has interviewed Trump 18 times for the book. Other disclosures include Trump’s derogative remarks about U.S. military leaders. He received criticism this week following reports that he had vilified fallen military personnel and veterans.

In Woodward’s book, an aide to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis heard Trump say in a meeting, “my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies” because they cared more about alliances than trade deals.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, Woodward questioned Trump about his views on the concept of white prerogative and whether he felt isolated by that privilege from the plight of Black Americans.

“No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you,” Trump replied, according to media reports on the book. “Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”