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Famed journalist Bob Woodward addresses criticism received for failing to promptly tell the public in a series of interviews earlier this year what the President told him about the coronavirus and the government’s response.
Woodward’s new book, AngerThe details of the interviews are scheduled for Tuesday.
During a telephone interview on Feb. 7, President Trump told Woodward that the virus is in the air and “more deadly than even your grueling river.”
And yet, over the next month, Trump publicly compared COVID-19 to seasonal flu.
But Woodward told NPR Everything considered Host Mary Louise Kelly in an interview in February where he thought Trump was referring to the virus in China.
“I … believed he was talking about the virus in China because he was talking to Chinese President Xi [Jinping] the night before, “he said.
Woodward said he tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the log of the call between the two world leaders to confirm that it was Xi who gave Trump this information about the virus.
By March, Woodward told NPR, the virus was clearly an “American problem” as well.
So I ask the question, what did the President know, when did he know, and how did he know? . January in the Oval Office. “
This January meeting is the opening scene of Angerin which Woodward says National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien Trump says the coronavirus is “the greatest national security threat you face in your presidency.”
“I wish I knew what I learned the previous May. Unfortunately not,” said Woodward.
He added, “I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years and I think I have a public health responsibility like any citizen – or maybe a journalist has more responsibility. If at some point I thought there was something to tell about that.” American people they don’t know, I would. “
In a March interview, Trump admitted to Woodward that he had downplayed the severity of the virus.
“I always wanted to downplay it,” Trump told Woodward on March 19. “I still like to downplay it because I don’t want to panic.”
Trump has since defended his decision to mislead the public about the severity of the coronavirus, saying he wanted to “project strength”.
“What I said is very simple: I want to show some level of confidence, and I want to show strength as a leader, and I want to show that our country will be fine one way or another,” Trump said a press conference on Thursday.
More than 190,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus.
Woodward told Kelly, “If there’s a tragedy in all of this and I think there is, it’s this Trump who said, ‘I wanted to downplay it because I didn’t want to panic.’ And my study of nine presidents, 20% of the presidents we’ve had, and the story before that of telling the country the truth, don’t panic. “
Woodward considered another phone call from Trump in early April to hang up “worried about the country”.
“I said [to Trump] … ‘This is a moment of crisis and a need for you to have leadership … you will be judged by the virus,’ “Woodward recalled.
“I urged him to be very open about it … and at the end of the book I say overall: Trump is the wrong man for the job.”
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, described the president’s actions as “treason against the American people”.
“He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while the deadly disease has ravaged our nation, he did not do his job on purpose,” he said during an election freeze in Michigan on Thursday.
For the book, Woodward conducted 17 interviews with Trump about economics, racial relations, and foreign policy from December through July.
Woodward told Kelly of NPR that the war between the United States and North Korea was drawing a lot closer than many realized in 2017.
“It got to the point … that then-Defense Secretary James Mattis would go to the National Cathedral to pray and consider what his responsibility would be if there were some kind of nuclear exchange with North Korea. It got very delicate.” he said.