Trump learned of a memo in January warning 'half a million American souls' could die of coronavirus, and he was displeased his adviser put it in writing

donald trump

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, April 10, 2020, in Washington.

Associated Press/Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump was informed in late January of a memo written by his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, warning that 'half a million American souls' could die of coronavirus, The New York Times reported Saturday.

  • Trump has denied he saw the memo at the time.

  • The Times also reported that Trump was displeased that Navarro had put the information in writing.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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President Donald Trump was reportedly told as early as January about a memo written by one of his advisers that warned of mass death in the United States from a coronavirus outbreak, though he has denied that he saw the memo at the time.

In a damning profile of the White House's actions leading up to the US's coronavirus outbreak, The New York Times reported Saturday that Trump did indeed learn of the January 29 memo written by his trade adviser, Peter Navarro.

The memo reportedly included a warning that up to 30% of the US population could be infected, and the death toll could be "on the order of a half a million American souls."

peter navarro donald trump

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who is now serving as national defense production act policy coordinator, gestures to President Donald Trump as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Washington.

Associated Press/Alex Brandon

Navarro had also urged in the memo to limit travel from China, then the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Trump implemented a travel ban shortly after.

"The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil," Mr. Navarro's memo said. "This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans."

Read more: Tests that can tell if you're immune to the coronavirus are on the way. Here are the companies racing to bring them to the US healthcare system.

According to The Times, aides discussed the memo with Trump, and he was displeased Navarro put the information in writing.

Navarro also wrote a second memo on February 23 warning that up to "1 [to] 2 million souls" could die of the virus, according to Axios.

Just one day later, Trump tweeted that the coronavirus was "very much under control in the USA."

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