President Trump defends downplaying coronavirus threat during Thursday press conference

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump held a news conference in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon amid criticism he understated the threat of COVID-19.

During the news conference, President Trump said he did not lie to the American people when he downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus.

“What I went out and said is very simple. I want to show a level of confidence, and I want to show strength as a leader and I want to show our country is going to be fine one way or the other,” Trump said.

The U.S. has the highest number of reported cases and deaths from COVID-19 in the world. According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, there are 6.3 million cases and more than 191,000 deaths nationwide.

Trump defended his actions, stating that the U.S. is doing very well and touting that weekly coronavirus cases have declined by “44% since July and deaths declined to 20% from just last week, it’s going down very rapidly.” He compared the U.S. to European countries who he says have recently “seen a sharp increase in cases.”

“I really do believe we’re rounding the corner,” said Trump.

Trump pointed to limiting travel from China at the end of January, where the virus originated, “so, obviously, outwardly I said it’s a very serious problem… That doesn’t mean I’m going to jump up and down in the air and start saying ‘people are going to die, people are going to die.’ No, no, I’m not going to do that. We’re going to get through this.”

The president deflected blame after a reporter asked him “why he lied to the American people?”

“This is nobody’s fault but China’s… There was no lie here,” said Trump. “What we’re doing is we’re leading, and we’re leading in a proper way.”

The president is on the defensive after newly released audio recordings from interviews between him and associate editor of the Washington Post, Bob Woodward surfaced on Wednesday.

In one of the taped recordings Trump says,”I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

The release of the audio coincides with a new book Woodward wrote about the president, due to come out next week. The book is called “Rage,” and parts of it draw from 18 interviews that Woodward says he conducted with President Trump between December and July.

In the Woodward book, President Trump indicated he knew of the severity of the coronavirus even as he declined to acknowledge it publicly. As far back as Jan. 28, according to the book, the president was briefed by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien that the outbreak which originated in China would be the biggest national security threat to his presidency.

During the press conference, President Trump also pointed to his Democratic rival, former V.P. Joe Biden for the swine flu “disaster.” He said, “Biden’s approach to the swine flu was disastrous. He did everything wrong. Now he’s telling us how to manage? He can’t manage himself.”

Trump also discussed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s success in inter-afghan relations, stating “a lot of progress is being made in Afghanistan…We’ll be down to 4,000 soldiers in a short period of time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 1998 - 2020 Nexstar Inc. | All Rights Reserved.