“In all of that, in the last two months, was there one moment in which you said to yourself – you wake up or whatever you do and you say, ‘Ah, this is the leadership test of your life?’” Woodward asked Trump on March 19th in a new clip that aired Tuesday night on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”.
“I think it could be, but I don’t think so,” said Trump. “I just want to solve it. There are a lot of people who have told me that. They said you are now a wartime president.”
The comments came more than seven weeks after Trump was warned by his national security adviser that the virus would pose the “greatest national security threat”
“This is where a leader would say, ‘I got a warning, there is trouble coming. There are things we can do,'” said Woodward. “But then he goes on and says, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to tell the truth because I would panic people.’ That’s not what people in this country do when they are told the truth. “
Woodward’s extensive interviews with Trump for his new book, Rage, revealed the president’s views on several hot button issues, namely his handling of the national coronavirus response, which in some cases contradicted his message to the public at the time.
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward on February 7th.
The first known death in the United States from Covid-19 was reported in Washington State on February 29, almost six weeks after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first US case. It was later discovered that one February 6 death was due to Covid-19.
In March, Trump admitted he had downplayed the virus. He also told Woodward on March 19 that he recently learned that “it’s not just old people” who are susceptible. Even so, Trump repeatedly claimed that it was mostly older people who had to worry.
“We live in an Orwellian world, and this is not just about a political or geopolitical problem,” said Woodward. “It’s about the lives of the people in this country, and he was told – he knew it.”
When Woodward told Trump that the election would be a contest between him, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the virus, Trump insisted that nothing more could have been done.
He added, “I acted early.”
He said he asked several advisors, “Is that pompous or is it true?”
“And the answer from everyone was, ‘It’s true … Trump’s whole business is running from the truth. You can’t run from the truth here because you saw it,” he added.
This is a game changing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Tara Subramaniam, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart contributed to this report.