Senate Republicans hoping to attack this week instead found themselves playing defense once again due to controversial remarks by President TrumpDonald John Trump Warren: I feel ‘furious to the core’ that Trump downplayed NYT pandemic reporter removed from Trump rally in Michigan Trump says he won’t share classified information following Woodward̵
It was a familiar dilemma for GOP senators used to being chased by reporters for their thoughts on Trump’s latest fury, but in this case it came with terrible timing – eight weeks before an election in which the Senate is in. line, and as they hoped. to draw attention to Democrats blocking a coronavirus relief bill on a procedural motion on Thursday.
Privately, Republicans in the Senate expressed bewilderment as to why Trump agreed to 18 interviews with Woodward, some of which took place until 10 p.m.
“Most of us say, ‘What the hell are you doing talking to Bob Woodward at 11pm?'” A GOP senator said.
“It does a lot of things that none of us understand,” the source added.
Trump told Woodward that he intentionally 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 cause panic.
The remarks were snatched from critics, who say Trump could have saved lives if he had raised the alarm much more consistently and loudly about a virus that he privately acknowledged was far worse than the common flu.
Trump defended his conduct this week, saying he was working as a cheerleader for the country and that it was right not to over-panic people. But some GOP senators aren’t buying damage control.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats Push Resolution to Fight Climate Change, Sluggish Economy and Racial Injustice | Senators Reach Compromise on Greenhouse Gas Amendment Blocking Energy Bill | Trump Judges Florida Voters With Moratorium On Offshore Drilling Senators Reach Compromise On Greenhouse Gas Amendment Blocking Bipartisan Energy Bill Top health officials pledge to keep policy out of COVID vaccination process- 19 OTHER (R-Alaska), which earlier this year said it was unsure about voting for Trump, admitted Thursday that she was “very concerned” about reports she had read in the press.
“Some of the things I find quite surprising and disturbing. But again, I didn’t have the opportunity to read these full interviews, but some press snippets were certainly very, very, very disturbing, “he told reporters.
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt Romney The Memo: Woodward’s Revelations Deepen Trump Worries Senate Jury to Vote Next Week on Authorization of Biden Subpoenas, Obama-Era Polls Hill Campaign Report: Florida Is In hovering MORE (R-Utah), which voted to convict Trump for an impeachment article in February, said the president should have alarmed the nation about the threat posed by the coronavirus when he was alerted by national security officials in January.
“I think we’re growing up to the American audience and that keeps credibility rather than trying to tell them one thing when you believe another,” Romney said.
Other Republican senators have publicly downplayed Woodward’s book and defended Trump, saying he took the coronavirus seriously and helped save lives.
Majority Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell Hillicon Valley: Russia, China and Iran aim for US elections | Twitter to remove premature election results | The Treasury adds Russians and Ukrainians to the list of designated citizens. Overnight Health Care: Senate Democrats Block GOP Relief Bill | Democrats Reveal Medicaid Chief’s Spending on Highly Paid Consultants | Trump Calls The Question Of Why He “Lied” About COVID-19 A Money “Disgrace”: Senate Democrats Block GOP Relief Bill | Senators Don’t Expect Stimulus Until After Elections | Plateau of jobless claims MORE (R-Ky.) In an interview with Fox News he said Washington officials knew the coronavirus would be dangerous.
“Well, I haven’t read Woodward’s book, but we all knew it was dangerous. The president knew it was dangerous and I believe he took positive steps right away, for which he should be applauded, not criticized,” he said.
The issue did not come up at all conference lunch meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, although Republican senators discussed the issue in small private conversations.
A second Republican senator said colleagues are rushing to try to understand the political implications of Woodward’s reports less than two months before election day.
“What they tell me is, ‘Have you seen this?’ And what does it mean? “said the legislator, characterizing the conversations with colleagues.
Trump is behind the Democratic candidate Joe BidenJoe Biden Harris Calls It “Outrageous” Trump Downplayed Coronavirus Historian Predicts Trump Downplay Pandemic Will Become “Biggest Duties” in Presidential History Night 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, Intelligence Officials “Don’t Trust” Him MORE in the polls of the main swing states that will decide the elections, even if the margins are narrow. The GOP has a 53-47-seat advantage in the Senate, which means the Democrats could win a majority by taking the White House and gaining three seats.
Some Republicans see Woodward’s book as a Beltway story that is unlikely to be successful in the election.
“I’m just wondering, ‘Who’s vote will be changed by a Bob Woodward book?'” The second Republican senator said.
“As Fauci said yesterday, practically nobody got it right. Basically he said that the president did not distort reality, “the source added, referring Anthony FauciAnthony Fauci Fauci Warns US Needs to “Squat Down” for Fall, Winter: “It Won’t Be Easy” Three Ways to Advance Communities Survey: Most Americans Wouldn’t Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Before of elections OTHER, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said in late January: “We still have a low risk for the American public, but we want to keep it low risk.”
Trump’s remarks on the coronavirus aren’t the only controversial comments in Woodward’s book.
Woodward also quoted Trump as telling his trade adviser Peter Navarro that “my fucking generals are a bunch of chicks” because they cared “more about their alliances than about trade deals.”
When asked by Woodward if he was trying to “understand the anger and pain, in particular, black people feel in this country,” Trump replied, “You really drank Kool-Aide, right? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel it at all. “
McConnell dodged questions about Woodward’s report on Wednesday at a press conference that was intended to focus on an upcoming vote on the Republicans’ reduced coronavirus relief bill.
“I haven’t looked at Woodward’s book. I’ll do it later,” McConnell said when asked if Trump had endangered Americans by not fully explaining the health threat. “This is a question for the White House.”
Even Senate Republicans in tough races avoided asking questions about Woodward’s reports.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret Collins Trump’s payroll tax deferral for federal workers causes backlash Joe Lieberman argues Susan Collins: “I’m a Democrat for life but I put my country first” McConnell seeks to unify GOP MORE (R-Maine) quickly entered Thursday’s morning voting series, flanked by an aide who protected her from a reporter who yelled a question in her direction about Trump downplaying the coronavirus threat.
Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind – VP Harris candidate, VP Pence crosses Wisconsin today GOP uses unmasked theory to minimize COVID-19 death toll The Hill 12:30 am report : the first Kennedy to lose an election in Massachusetts MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters that he didn’t read Woodward’s report while Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSally Mark Kelly Apologizes For 2018 Offensive Joke When Trump Speaks Or Tweets, Trouble Follows Democrats Leading In Arizona Senate Races, North Carolina: Poll MORE (R-Ariz.) He also claimed he did not review what Trump would have said.
Republican whip of the Senate John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune Senate Democrats Block GOP Relief Bill McConnell Accuses Democrats of Sabotaging COVID-19 Relief Talks McConnell Supports GOP Over Coronavirus Package MORE (R-S.D.), Who sometimes criticizes Trump’s more provocative behavior, said Thursday that he hadn’t paid much attention to the hype Trump’s comments on Woodward caused.
“I am more concerned about the actions that have actually been taken to address the crisis and I believe the White House has been working with Congress on different solutions – the CARES package and others – to get assistance out there,” he said.
Thune said questions about Trump’s decision to downplay the severity of the virus “and who said what when is probably 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: “I’m not. [going to] give marks in letters or marks in points. This is not what this is about. “
“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? No. Were there hiccups and speedbumps along the way? Yes.”
Jordain Carney contributed.