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Bob Woodward’s book ‘Rage:’ Trump admits he hid the true threat of the coronavirus

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

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the virus threat earlier than previously known. “Rather surprising,” Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was perhaps five times “deadlier” than the flu.

Trump’s admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time that insisted that the virus “would disappear” and that “all was well”.

The book, in Trump’s own words, describes a president who has betrayed the public’s trust and the most basic responsibilities of his office. In “Rage”

;, Trump says a president’s job is to “keep our country safe”. But in early February, Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was and, in March, he admitted that he had hidden that knowledge from the public.

“I always wanted to downplay it,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even though he had declared a national emergency due to the virus days earlier. “I still like to belittle, because I don’t want to panic.”
If instead of belittling what he knew, Trump had acted decisively in early February with a strict shutdown and consistent message for wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands, experts believe that thousands of American lives could have been saved.

The startling revelations in “Rage”, which CNN got ahead of its September 15 release, were made during 18 wide-ranging interviews Trump granted Woodward from December 5, 2019 to July 21, 2020. The interviews were taped. by Woodward with Trump’s permission, and CNN has obtained copies of some of the audio tapes.

“Rage” also includes brutal assessments of Trump’s presidency by many of his former senior national security officials, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and former Secretary of State. of State Rex Tillerson. Mattis is cited for calling Trump “dangerous” and “unfit” to be the commander in chief. Woodward writes that Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief, which had grown rather than diminished, although unsupported by intelligence evidence, that Putin had something about Trump.” Woodward continues, writing that Coats thought, “How else to explain the President’s behavior? Coats saw no other explanation.”

In this December 2019 White House photo provided by Bob Woodward, President Donald Trump is seen speaking with Woodward in the Oval Office, surrounded by a few aides and advisers, as well as Vice President Mike Pence. On Trump's desk is a large photo of Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The book also contains harsh assessments of the president’s leadership on the virus by current officials.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, is quoted as telling others that Trump’s leadership was “rudderless” and that his “attention span is like a negative number.”

“His sole purpose is to be re-elected,” Fauci told an associate, according to Woodward.

“The virus has nothing to do with me”

Woodward reveals new details about Trump’s first warnings received and often ignored.

In a top-secret intelligence briefing on January 28, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien gave Trump a “screeching” warning about the virus, telling the president it would be the “greatest threat to national security” of the country. his presidency. Trump’s head “popped out,” Woodward writes.

O’Brien’s deputy, Matt Pottinger, agrees, telling Trump that it could be as serious as the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. Pottinger warned Trump that asymptomatic spread was occurring in China: he was told that 50% of infected people showed no symptoms.

At the time, there were fewer than a dozen reported coronavirus cases in the United States.

Three days later, Trump announced travel restrictions from China, a move suggested by his national security team, despite Trump’s subsequent claims that he alone supported the travel restrictions.
However, Trump continued to publicly downplay the danger of the virus. February was a lost month. Woodward sees this as an overwhelming missed opportunity for Trump to reset “the leadership clock” after being told it was “a once-in-a-lifetime health emergency.”

“Presidents are the executive branch. There was a duty to warn. Listen, plan and care,” Woodward writes. But in the days following the January 28 briefing, Trump used high-profile appearances to downplay the threat and, Woodward writes, “to reassure the public that they took little risk.”

During a pre-Super Bowl interview on Fox News on February 2, Trump said, “We pretty much shut it down from China.” Two days later, during his State of the Union address, Trump only hinted at the virus, promising: “my administration will take all necessary measures to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”

Asked Woodward in May if he remembered O’Brien’s January 28 warning that the virus would be his presidency’s biggest national security threat, Trump doubted. “No I do not know.” Trump said. “I’m sure if he said it – you know, I’m sure he said it. Good boy.”

The book highlights how the president took all credit and no responsibility for his actions related to the pandemic, which infected 6 million Americans and killed more than 185,000 in the United States.

“The virus has nothing to do with me,” Trump told Woodward in their latest interview in July. “It’s not my fault. It’s – China got that damn virus out.”

‘Go through the air’

When Woodward spoke to Trump on February 7, two days after being cleared of impeachment by the Senate, Woodward was expecting a lengthy conversation about the trial. He was surprised, however, by the president’s focus on the virus. At the same time as Trump and his public health officials were saying the virus was “low risk,” Trump revealed to Woodward that he had talked about the virus with Chinese President Xi Jinping the night before. Woodward quotes Trump as saying, “We have a bit of an interesting setback with the virus going on in China.”

“Go through the air,” Trump said. “It’s always harder than touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it goes. And so it’s very complicated. It’s very delicate. It’s even more deadly than even your strenuous ones. influences. ”

But Trump spent most of the following month saying the virus was “very much under control” and that cases in the US would “disappear”. Trump said on his trip to India on February 25 that it was “a problem that will go away,” and the next day he predicted that the number of US cases “within a couple of days will drop close to zero.”

By March 19, when Trump told Woodward he was deliberately downplaying the dangers to avoid creating panic, he also recognized the threat to young people. “Just today and yesterday, some amazing facts have emerged. He’s not just old, older. Also young, many young people,” Trump said.

Publicly, however, Trump continued to insist exactly the opposite, claiming until August 5 that the children were “almost immune”.
Even in April, when the United States became the country with the most confirmed cases in the world, Trump’s public statements contradicted his acknowledgments to Woodward. In an April 3 coronavirus task force briefing, Trump was still downplaying the virus and claiming it would go away. “I said it’s going away and it’s going away,” he said. Yet two days later, on April 5, Trump again told Woodward: “It’s a horrible thing. It’s unbelievable” and on April 13 he said: “It’s so easily transmitted that you wouldn’t even believe it.”

“Dangerous” and “unsuitable”

Woodward, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, conducted hundreds of hours of confidential background interviews with first-hand witnesses for “Rage” and obtained “notes, emails, journals, calendars and confidential documents,” including more than two dozens of letters exchanged by Trump with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Woodward is known for recording his interviews with the permission of his subjects and sources.

He writes that when he attributes exact quotes, thoughts, or conclusions, that information comes from the person, from a colleague with direct knowledge or documents.

Trump’s conscious minimization of the coronavirus is one of several revelations in “Rage”. The book is filled with anecdotes about senior government officials blinded by the tweets, frustrated by Trump’s inability to focus, and scared of his next political directive because he refused to accept the facts or listen to the experts:

– Mattis is said to have said that Trump is “dangerous”, “unfit”, “has no moral compass” and has taken foreign policy actions that have shown opponents “how to destroy America”. After Mattis left the administration, he and Coats discussed whether they needed to take “collective action” to speak out against Trump. Mattis says he eventually resigned after Trump announced he was pulling US troops out of Syria, “when I was basically headed to do something I thought went beyond stupid to stupid crime.”

– Woodward writes that Coats and his superior staff “have scrutinized intelligence as closely as possible” and that Coats still questions the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Coats saw how extraordinary it was for the president’s top intelligence official to harbor such deep suspicions about the president’s relationship with Putin. But he couldn’t shake them.”

– Trump has been criticized in recent days for making derogatory remarks on US military personnel and veterans. Woodward’s book includes an anecdote in which a Mattis aide overheard Trump say at a meeting, “My fucking generals are a bunch of hot babes” because they cared more about alliances than trade deals. Mattis asked the assistant to document the comment in an email to him. And Trump himself criticized military officials in Woodward for their view that alliances with NATO and South Korea are the best deal the US does. “I wouldn’t say they were stupid, because I would never say that about our military,” Trump said. “But if they said it, whoever said it was stupid. It’s a bad deal … they make so much money. It costs us 10 billion dollars. We’re fools.”

– Woodward reports that Trump’s national security team has expressed concern that the United States may be close to nuclear war with North Korea amid provocations in 2017. “We never knew if it was real,” the secretary said. Mike Pompeo state, “or if it was a bluff.” But it was so bad that Mattis slept dressed to be ready in case there was a North Korean launch and repeatedly went to Washington National Cathedral to pray.

– Trump bragged to Woodward about a new secret weapons system. “I built a nuclear – a weapon system that no one has ever had in this country before,” Trump said. Woodward says other sources confirmed the information, without giving further details, but expressed surprise that Trump disclosed it.

– Woodward obtained the 27 “love letters” Trump exchanged with Kim Jong Un, 25 of which have not been publicly reported. The letters, filled with flowery language, provide a fascinating window into their relationship. Kim flatters Trump by repeatedly calling him “Excellency” and writes in a letter that meeting again would be “reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy movie.” In another, Kim writes that “the deep and special friendship between us will work like a magical force”. CNN obtained transcripts of two of the letters.

– Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner also steps in with some unusual literary insights into his father-in-law. Kushner is said to have said that four texts are critical to understanding Trump, including “Alice in Wonderland”. Kushner paraphrased the Cheshire cat: “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there.”

– Woodward insisted on Trump on the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Once again, Trump has rejected US intelligence assessment and defends bin Salman: “He says emphatically that no ‘did”.

– Trump insulted his predecessors, saying that Woodward made former President George W. Bush look like “a stupid idiot, which he was.” Trump said of former President Barack Obama: “I don’t think Obama is smart … I think he’s very overrated. And I don’t think he’s a great speaker.” He also tells Woodward that Kim Jong Un thought Obama was an “asshole”.

– Woodward discussed the Black Lives Matter protests and suggested to the President that people like them – “White, privileged” – must work to understand the anger and pain that blacks feel in the United States. “You really drank Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you,” replied Trump, repeating his outrageous talking point that he did more for the black community than any president besides Abraham Lincoln.

Woodward reports new details on Russia’s election meddling, writing that the NSA and CIA classified evidence that the Russians had inserted malware into the electoral registration systems of at least two Florida counties, St. Lucie and Washington. While there was no evidence that the malware was activated, Woodward writes, it was sophisticated and could wipe out voters in specific districts. The provider of the voting system used by Florida has also been used in states across the country.

‘Dynamite behind the door’

“Rage” is the sequel to Woodward’s 2018 bestselling book “Fear,” which portrayed a chaotic White House where his aides were hiding documents from Trump to protect the country from what they considered his most dangerous impulses.

While Trump criticized “Fear”, he also complained that he didn’t speak to Woodward about the book, which led to extensive interviews for “Rage”.

However, on August 14, Trump preemptively attacked Woodward’s new book, tweeting: “Bob Woodward’s book will be a FALSE, as always, just like many of the others have been.”

Throughout the book, Trump provides insights into his view of the presidency. He tells Woodward when you run the country: “There’s dynamite behind every door.”

After his 18 interviews, Woodward issues a harsh verdict: Trump is the “dynamite behind the door”. Woodward ends his book with a statement that “Trump is the wrong man for the job”.

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