Donald Trump told Bob Woodward in early February that the coronavirus was dangerous and deadly, but a month and a half later admitted that he downplayed its threat because he didn’t want to create a panic, according to excerpts of Woodward’s new book obtained by CNN.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in a March 19 interview with Woodward. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” Trump had said publicly in February that the virus would go away. He said on Feb. 10, he said, “We’re in very good shape. We have 11 cases, and most of them are getting better very rapidly.”
CNN ran audio from Trump’s interviews with Woodward, part of the basis for the famed investigative journalist’s new book Rage, set to be published on Sept. 15.
At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump “has done an unprecedented job dealing with COVID.” “He took this seriously but he did express calm,” she said.
In an interview on Feb. 7, Trump told Woodward that the virus was “deadly stuff” and that it was highly contagious. But it was not for more than another month before the White House started to urge social distancing measures and shutdowns.
Woodward will do his first interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday. The show said that he interviewed the president for a total of about nine hours.
In the book, some former top national security officials offer what CNN called “brutal assessments” of his presidency. James Mattis, his former secretary of defense, described him as “dangerous” and “unfit” to be commander in chief.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is quoted as telling an associate that Trump’s “sole focus is to get reelected.”
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