Senate Republicans, hoping to go on the offensive this week, played defense over controversial comments from renewed statements President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: I am deeply angry that Trump downplayed the pandemic NYT reporter who was removed from the Trump rally in Michigan. Trump says he did not pass on classified information after Woodward’s book MORE ̵
It was a known dilemma for GOP Senators, used to being followed by reporters over their thoughts on Trump’s recent uproar, but in this case it came at a terrible time – eight weeks before an election that saw the Senate come up is at stake and as they had hoped, the Democrats are drawing attention to a coronavirus bill that blocked a procedural motion on Thursday.
Privately, Senate Republicans expressed confusion over why Trump had agreed to 18 interviews with Woodward, some of which didn’t take place until 10 p.m.
“Most of us say, ‘What the hell is he doing when he talks to Bob Woodward at 11am?’” Said a GOP senator.
“He does a lot of things that neither of us understand,” added the source.
Trump told Woodward that he had deliberately downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 190,000 people in the United States because he didn’t want to panic.
The remarks were ripped off by critics who say Trump might have saved lives if he had sounded much more consistent and loud alarm about a virus he privately classified as much worse than the flu.
Trump defended his behavior this week, saying he works as a cheerleader for the country and it is right not to panic people excessively. But some GOP senators aren’t buying damage control.
It is. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats Push For Solution To Combat Climate Change, Sluggish Economy, And Racial Injustice Senators Reach Compromise On Greenhouse Gas Emission Change That Is Blocking The Energy Bill | Trump Courts Florida Voters With Offshore Drilling Moratorium Senators Compromise Greenhouse Gas Change That Brings Bipartisan Energy Bill To A Standstill Top Health Officials Commit To Keep Politics Out Of COVID-19 Immunization Process MORE (R-Alaska), who said she wasn’t sure she would vote for Trump earlier this year, admitted Thursday that she was “very concerned” about the reports she read in the press.
“I find some things quite surprising and quite worrying. But again, I haven’t had a chance to read these full interviews, but some of the press clippings were certainly very, very, very worrying, ”she told reporters.
It is. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt Romney The Memo: Woodward Revelations Deepen Trump worries Senate panel to vote next week to approve subpoenas for Biden, Obama-era probes. The Hill’s Campaign Report: Florida hangs in the balance MORE (R-Utah), who voted to convict Trump for impeachment in February, said the president should have spoken to the nation about the coronavirus threat when he was alerted by national security officials in January.
“I think we’re getting better connected with the American public and that preserves credibility instead of trying to tell them one thing when you believe another,” said Romney.
Other Republican senators have publicly downplayed the Woodward book and defended Trump. They said he took the coronavirus seriously and helped save lives.
Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Russia, China and Iran aim for US elections | Twitter to remove early election results | The Ministry of Finance adds Russians and Ukrainians to the list of nationals-designate. Overnight Health Care: Senate Democrats Block GOP Aid Act | Democrats Reveal Medicaid Chief’s Spending on Highly Paid Advisors Trump Calls On Why He “Lied” About COVID-19, A “Shame” On The Money: Senate Democrats Block GOP Aid Bill | Senators expect an incentive to plateau MORE unemployment claims only after the election (R-Ky.) In an interview with Fox News, Washington officials said the coronavirus would be dangerous.
“Well, I haven’t read the Woodward book, but we all knew it was dangerous. The president knew it was dangerous and I think he took positive steps very early on, for which he should be applauded, not criticized, ”he said.
The issue was not brought up at lunchtime conference-wide meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, although Republican senators discussed the matter in small private talks.
A second Republican senator said colleagues were trying to understand the political implications of Woodward’s coverage less than two months after election day.
“They say to me, ‘Did you see that? ‘and what does that mean? “said the legislature, characterizing conversations with colleagues.
Trump stands behind the democratic candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris calls it “outrageous” Trump downplayed coronavirus Historian predicts the downplayed Trump pandemic will go down as the “greatest breach of duty” in the history of the president. Overnight Defense: Trump Announces New US Ambassador to Afghanistan | Pentagon officially withdraws plan to end Stars and Stripes | Biden says Trump doesn’t understand national security, Intel officials don’t “trust” him anymore in surveys of major swing states that decide on the choice even though the margins are close. The GOP has a 53-47 seat edge in the Senate, which means Democrats could win a majority by taking over the White House and taking three seats.
Some Republicans consider the Woodward book to be a Beltway story that is unlikely to make any real waves in the election.
“I’m just wondering, ‘Whose voice is a book by Bob Woodward changed?'” Said the second Republican senator.
“As Fauci said yesterday, nobody really understood that correctly. He basically said the president did not distort reality, ”the source added Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci Warns US Against “Settling” For Fall And Winter: “It Won’t Be Easy” Three Ways To Keep Communities Moving Poll: Most Americans Would MORE Avoid Taking COVID-19 Vaccine Before Elections, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said in late January, “We still have low risk for the American public, but we want to keep it at low risk.”
Trump’s remarks on the coronavirus aren’t the only controversial comments in the Woodward book.
Woodward also quoted Trump, telling his trade advisor Peter Navarro that “my damn generals are a bunch of pussies” because they “care more about their alliances than trade deals.”
When asked by Woodward if he was trying to “understand the anger and the pain, especially black people in this country,” Trump replied, “You really drank the Kool-Aide, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Impressive. No, I don’t feel that at all. “
McConnell dodged questions about Woodward’s coverage at a news conference on Wednesday that was supposed to focus on an upcoming vote on the stripped-down Republican coronavirus alleviation law.
“I didn’t look at the Woodward book. I’ll do it later, ”McConnell said when asked if Trump put Americans at risk by not fully explaining the health threat. “That is a question for the White House.”
Senate Republicans in tough races also avoided questions about Woodward’s reporting.
It is. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDeferring Federal Employees Income Tax Creates Backlash Joe Lieberman advocates Susan Collins: “I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I put my country first” McConnell is trying to unify GOP MORE (R-Maine) quickly walked onto the voting series Thursday morning, flanked by an aide who shielded them from a reporter yelling a question in their direction that Trump should downplay the coronavirus threat.
It is. Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst The Hill’s Morning Report – sponsored by National Industries for the Blind – VP Candidate Harris, VP Pence in Wisconsin Today GOP uses the debunked theory to downplay the death toll from COVID-19. The Hill’s 12:30 pm Report: First Kennedy to lose an election in Massachusetts MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters that she hadn’t read Woodward’s coverage while Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMark Kelly Apologizes for 2018 Offensive Joke When Trump speaks or tweets, problems follow Democrats in Arizona, North Carolina, Senate: Race MORE (R-Ariz.) Also said she didn’t check what Trump allegedly said.
Republican whip of the Senate John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate Democrats Block GOP Aid Bill McConnell Accuses Democrats of Sabotaging COVID-19 Aid Talks McConnell Endorses GOP Support for Coronavirus Package MORE (RS.D.), who occasionally criticizes Trump’s most provocative behavior, said Thursday it hadn’t paid much attention to the uproar caused by Trump’s comments on Woodward.
“I am more concerned about the actions that have actually been taken to address the crisis, and I believe the White House worked with Congress on several solutions – the CARES package and others – to get support there “, he said.
Thune said questions about Trump’s decision to downplay the severity of the virus, “who said what and when, is likely a question you should ask the White House.”
When asked how he would rate Trump’s early response to the virus in January, February and March, Thune replied, “It’s not me [going to] Include letter or dot notes. That is not the point here. “
“We are where we are and we have all tried, in very difficult circumstances, to do the right things to help the country survive and recover,” he said. “Was everything perfect? Were there hiccups and speed bumps on the way? Yes.”
Jordain Carney contributed to this.