President Donald Trump spoke privately about the deadly nature of the coronavirus in recorded interviews even as he was publicly downplaying the severity of COVID-19 early this year, before the pandemic would take nearly 200,000 American lives and counting.
The president shared his stark assessment with the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in recorded phone interviews in February, as the virus was spreading from China to other parts of the world.
‘This is deadly stuff,’ the president told the Watergate reporter, Washington fixture and author who has interviewed U.S. presidents going back to Nixon.
‘This is deadly stuff,’ President Donald Trump told Bob Woodward in a Feb. 7th call where they discussed the coronavirus
‘You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,’ Trump told him in a Feb. 7 call. ‘And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.’
Trump had been briefed on the virus in the Oval Office Jan. 28th, as Washington Post excerpts describe.
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned him: ‘This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,’ according to Woodward.
O’Brien’s deputy, Matthew Pottinger, warned the threat was akin to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million worldwide.
His grievous language came as he was telling the nation the virus is ‘going to disappear’ and would ‘all work out fine.’
Trump told the nation Jan. 30: ‘We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.’
He told the nation Feb. 2: ‘Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.’
Feb. 7 – the date of the Woodward call – is the same date Trump tweeted about China’s president: ‘Nothing is easy, but [Chinese President Xi Jinping] … will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.’
Trump continued: ‘Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!’
Trump then told Woodward in a March 19 interview explaining his comments: ‘I wanted to always play it down.’
‘I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,’ he said.