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Trump told Woodward he wasn’t looking at coronavirus as the leadership test of his life



“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”

; to his presidency, and after several interviews in which Trump told Woodward of his concerns about Covid-19 .

As of the March 19 interview, 265 deaths from the virus had been reported in the U.S. To date, more than 195,000 Americans have died and more than 6.6 million have contracted Covid-19. The disease has become the largest public health disaster in more than 100 years.
Woodward learned of a top-secret January 28 intelligence briefing in early May in which National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien Trump said the coronavirus would be “the biggest national security threat” of his presidency. O’Brien’s deputy Matthew Pottinger warned Trump about the spread of the virus from person to person and asymptomatic.
Woodward pointed out Tuesday that Trump barely mentioned the pandemic during his State of the Union speech on Feb.4.

“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.

In the course of their conversations, Trump admitted to Woodward that weeks before the first confirmed death of the U.S. coronavirus he had known that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious, and “more deadly than your grueling river,” and that he was have repeatedly played down publicly.

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

However, a few weeks later, Trump falsely claimed in a press conference on February 26 that death rates for the flu were higher than for the coronavirus.

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.

Woodward also responded to Trump’s comments on Tuesday, denying that he downplayed the virus, claiming he actually “hyped it up in relation to the action.”

“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.”

CNN reported last week that after 18 interviews that were a key part of the book, the men had a 19th interview on Aug. 14 – by that time more than 168,000 Americans had died and more than 1,300 died on that day alone.

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.”

Woodward also talked about how he got the final statement on his book that “Trump is the wrong man for the job”.

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.


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