Donald Trump knew coronavirus was ‘deadly’ in February – but told top aides he ‘wanted to play it down,’ an explosive new book claims. Veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new tome Rage includes an interview with the president from March, where he said: ‘To be honest with you, I always wanted to play it down.’
‘I still like playing it down. I didn’t want to cause a panic.’ At the same time, he was publicly claiming it would ‘wash through’ the US without causing much harm, and likened the risk posed by Covid-19 to that of a seasonal flu.
A month previously, Trump admitted during a phone call to Woodward that he knew Covid-19 was extremely dangerous. Trump said: ‘You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.
‘And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.’
Trump is also said to have played the victim during his final chat with Woodward in July, moaning: ‘The virus has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault.’
Trump’s election rival Joe Biden launched a blistering attack on the president’s words during a speech in Michigan on Wednesday, saying: ‘He lied to the American people.
‘He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat imposed to the country…He failed to do his job—on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people.’
Woodward – one of the two Washington Post journalists who exposed the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon in 1974 – gleaned the information during 18 on-the-record interviews with President Trump.
The storied journalist, whose book is being serialized by the Post, said he was also given further ‘deep background’ from unnamed sources.
He told of how Trump was warned by intelligence experts earlier this year that coronavirus would be on a par with the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people.
Woodward was scathing of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, writing: ‘Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states.
‘There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.’
Coronavirus has so-far infected more than 6.3million Americans, and killed close to 190,000.
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