“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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…