WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the U.S. government had it under control, according to newly released audio recordings from interviews between the president and journalist Bob Woodward.
Both the president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded to the release of the audio recordings, which feature President Trump discussing his knowledge of the coronavirus and its health impacts.
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. Woodward is an associate editor at the Washington Post newspaper.
Unlike earlier critical books that often relied on anonymous sources, Wednesday’s revelation by Woodward employs the president’s own words—and they’re on tape.
In the Woodward book, the president 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.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.”
Yet this is what the president said about the virus three days after that call with Woodward:
“It looks like by April, you know in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away—I hope that’s true.”
On March 19, Woodward asked the president, who had suspended travel to the U.S. from China and Europe at the end of January, why he nonetheless made those statements.
“I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said on tape.
And Wednesday at the White House, he elaborated.
“We honestly, we’ve done an incredible job. But we don’t want to run around screaming, shouting, ‘Oh look at this, look at this.’ We have to show leadership. And leadership is all about confidence. And confidence is confidence in our country,” Trump said. “We don’t want to show panic. We’re not going to show panic. And that’s exactly what I did.”
The president called the book a political hit job, and the timing of its release less than two months before the election was questioned by critics. But none of that stopped his opponent from pouncing.
“It’s beyond despicable,” Biden said.
During a campaign stop in Michigan, the Democratic presidential nominee ripped into the president.
“He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people,” Biden said.
The new book’s disclosures overshadowed other news from the White House and the campaign trail, including a new Biden policy on manufacturing, the president’s announcement of his new candidates for any future Supreme Court vacancy, and even word that the president has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for shepherding a peace agreement between Isreal and the United Arab Emirates.