Bob Woodward book ‘Rage:’ Trump admits to concealing true threat of coronavirus


“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward on February 7.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. “Pretty amazing,” Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times “more deadly” than the flu.

'Dangerous' and 'unfit': Trump's former national security advisers say he has 'no moral compass' in new Woodward book

Trump’s admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was “going to disappear” and “all work out fine.”

The book, using Trump’s own words, depicts a President who has betrayed the public trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office. In “Rage,” Trump says the job of a president is “to keep our country safe.” But in early February, Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, and in March, admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
If instead of playing down what he knew, Trump had acted decisively in early February with a strict shutdown and a consistent message to wear masks, social distance and wash hands, experts believe that thousands of American lives could have been saved.

The startling revelations in “Rage,” which CNN obtained ahead of its September 15 release, were made during 18 wide-ranging interviews Trump gave Woodward from December 5, 2019 to July 21, 2020. The interviews were recorded by Woodward with Trump’s permission, and CNN has obtained copies of some of the audio tapes.

“Rage” also includes brutal assessments of Trump’s presidency from many of his former top national security officials, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Mattis is quoted as calling Trump “dangerous” and “unfit” to be commander in chief. Woodward writes that Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump.” Woodward continues, writing that Coats felt, “How else to explain the president’s behavior? Coats could see no other explanation.”
In this White House photo from December 2019 provided by Bob Woodward, President Donald Trump is seen speaking to Woodward in the Oval Office, surrounded by some aides and advisers, as well as Vice President Mike Pence. On Trump's desk is a large picture of Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The book also contains harsh evaluations of the President’s leadership on the virus from current officials.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, is quoted telling others Trump’s leadership was “rudderless” and that his “attention span is like a minus number.”

“His sole purpose is to get reelected,” Fauci told an associate, according to Woodward.

‘The virus has nothing to do with me’

Woodward reveals new details on the early warnings Trump received — and often ignored.

In a January 28 top secret intelligence briefing, national security adviser Robert O’Brien gave Trump a “jarring” warning about the virus, telling the President it would be the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. Trump’s head “popped up,” Woodward writes.

O’Brien’s deputy, Matt Pottinger, concurred, telling Trump it could be as bad as the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. Pottinger warned Trump that asymptomatic spread was occurring in China: He had been told 50% of those infected showed no symptoms.

At that time, there were fewer than a dozen reported coronavirus cases in the US.

Three days later, Trump announced restrictions on travel from China, a move suggested by his national security team — despite Trump’s later claims that he alone backed the travel limitations.
Nevertheless, Trump continued to publicly downplay the danger of the virus. February was a lost month. Woodward views this as a damning missed opportunity for Trump to reset “the leadership clock” after he was told this was a “once-in-a-lifetime health emergency.”

“Presidents are the executive branch. There was a duty to warn. To listen, to plan, and to take care,” Woodward writes. But in the days following the January 28 briefing, Trump used high-profile appearances to minimize the threat and, Woodward writes, “to reassure the public they faced little risk.”

During a pre-Super Bowl interview on Fox News February 2, Trump said, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” Two days later during his State of the Union address, Trump made only a passing reference to the virus, promising, “my administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”

Asked by Woodward in May if he remembered O’Brien’s January 28 warning that the virus would be the biggest national security threat of his presidency, Trump equivocated. “No, I don’t.” Trump said. “I’m sure if he said it — you know, I’m sure he said it. Nice guy.”

The book highlights how the President took all of the credit and none of the responsibility for his actions related to the…



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