President Donald Trump admitted on Wednesday he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in order not to cause panic after excerpts from a forthcoming book gave the bombshell revelation that he knew how deadly the pandemic could be.
'I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love this country. I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic,' he told reporters at the White House.
'Certainly I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength, we want to show strength as a nation. That's what I've done,' he added
'Leadership is about confidence. Confidence is confidence in our country,' he noted.
His admission comes after excerpts appeared from Bob Woodward's forthcoming book on the Trump administration, where, in recorded interviews, the president spoke privately about the deadly nature of the coronavirus even as he was publicly downplaying the severity of COVID-19.
In recorded interviews that were revealed Wednesday afternoon, Trump – who regularly speaks of his disdain for much of the 'fake news' media – spoke liberally with Woodward about his inner-thoughts on the virus and private conversations with Kim Jong-un – despite having called an earlier Woodward book a 'con on the public.'
'This is deadly stuff,' the president told the Watergate reporter, Washington fixture and author who has interviewed U.S. presidents going back to Nixon.
President Donald Trump admitted he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in order not to cause panic
PUBLIC: JAN. 22
'We have it totally under control.' - During CNBC interview on sidelines of economic forum in Switzerland. A day earlier, federal officials reported the first case of COVID-19 in the United States. 'It´s one person, coming in from China,' Trump said. 'It´s going to be just fine.'
PUBLIC: JAN. 30
'Hopefully it won´t be as bad as some people think it could be. But we´re working very closely with them and with a lot of other people and a lot of other countries. And we think we have it very well under control.' - During trade event in Michigan.
PRIVATE: FEB. 7
'You just breathe the air and that´s how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It´s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.' - Trump phone interview with Woodward.
PUBLIC: FEB. 10
'I think the virus is going to be - it´s going to be fine.' - During New Hampshire rally.
PUBLIC: FEB. 26
'The 15 (case count in the U.S.) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. ... This is a flu. This is like a flu.' - During White House coronavirus task force briefing.
PUBLIC: MARCH 6
'You have to be calm. It´ll go away.' - During visit to Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PUBLIC: MARCH 7
'No, I´m not concerned at all. No, I´m not. No, we've done a great job.' - After working dinner with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
PUBLIC: MARCH 13
'We've done a great job because we acted quickly. We acted early. And there´s nothing we could have done that was better than closing our borders to highly infected areas.' - During Rose Garden announcement declaring a national emergency.
PRIVATE: MARCH 19
'To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don´t want to create a panic.' - Interview with Woodward.
PUBLIC: MARCH 24
'I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter - that beautiful Easter day.'
PRIVATE: MARCH 30
'I want to keep the country calm. I don´t want panic in the country. I could cause panic much better than even you.' - Responding to reporter's suggestion that he offered false assurances to Americans.
Trump didn't deny the comments - he has previously blasted stories he doesn't like as 'fake news' - but offered an explanation instead.
'We don't want to instill panic. We don't want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem that is a tremendous problem, scare everybody,' the president explained when asked about the discrepancy between the remarks he made to Woodward and the remarks he made in public at the time.
And when asked by DailyMail.com how the American people could trust what he says going forward, Trump said: 'It's a big part of trust. We have to have leadership, show leadership. The last thing you want to do is create a panic.'
He said repeatedly his public statements in February downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, which has taken 200,000 American lives to date and counting, was to avoid causing chaos and confusion.
'We don't want to have to show panic. We're not going to show panic. That's what I did,' he said.
And he called the book - the latest in a series of books painting his administration in a poor light 'another political hit job.'
'Whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you cannot show a sense of panic or you're going to have bigger problems,' the president said.
The president shared his stark assessment with Woodward in recorded phone interviews in February, as the virus was spreading from China to other parts of the world.
'You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed,' Trump told him in a Feb. 7 call.
'And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.'
Trump had been briefed on the virus in the Oval Office Jan. 28th, as Washington Post excerpts describe.
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien warned him: 'This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,' according to Woodward.
O'Brien's deputy, Matthew Pottinger, warned the threat was akin to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million worldwide.
His grievous language came as he was telling the nation the virus is 'going to disappear' and would 'all work out fine.'
Trump told the nation Jan. 30: 'We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.'
He told the nation Feb. 2: 'Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.'
Feb. 7 – the date of the Woodward call – is the same date Trump tweeted about China's president: 'Nothing is easy, but [Chinese President Xi Jinping] … will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.'
Trump continued: 'Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!'
Trump then told Woodward in a March 19 interview explaining his comments: 'I wanted to always play it down.'
'I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic,' he said.
Bob Woodward interviewed the president as the virus was raging
Don't panic: This was the scene inside a makeshift morgue outside Wyckoff Hospital a in the Brooklyn borough of New York on April 4, 2020.
Trump spoke to Woodward about his conversations with China's President Xi Jinping as the pandemic unfolded
18 INTERVIEWS WITH DONALD Trump - HOW 'BIGGEST STAR' WOODWARD GOT HIS SCOOP
Woodward conducted 18 interviews with Trump between December and July, according to the Post.
As in his prior work, he relies on anonymous sourcing and 'deep background' information.
Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary
'There may come a time when we have to take collective action.' 'Dangerous. He's unfit.' 'The president has no moral compass.'
Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
'To him, a lie is not a lie. It's just what he thinks. He doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie.' He was sure that Trump had chosen to play on the dark side -- the moneyed interests in the New York real estate culture, and international finance with its corrupt, anything-to-make-a-buck dealmaking. Anything to get ahead, anything to make a deal.
Dr. Tony Fauci, head of NIH
'Rudderless.' 'His attention span is like a minus number.' 'His sole purpose is to get reelected.'
Jared Kushner, son-in-law, advisor
The goal is to get his head from governing to campaigning.'
George W. Bush, former president
'He'd misconstrue anything I said.'
'He's the wrong man for the job.'
Trump was convinced that if he had talked to Woodward, it could have led to a more favorable depiction in the book, according to the officials.
Trump had always held Woodward in high regard - he considered the journalist as the biggest star in the field - and told aides that he insisted on being interviewed if Woodward were to write again, the officials said.
'Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states,' Woodward writes in the book, which follows exposes on the internal workings of administrations for decades.
'There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.'
The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, turned in a harsh review of Trump's actions in private – even as he tries to temper comments in public.
Woodward quotes Fauci calling Trump 'rudderless' and saying his 'attention span is like a minus number.'
'His sole purpose is to get reelected,' Fauci told an associate, according to the book.
Trump, who has taken to calling COVID-19 the 'China virus' did not appear to share any more personal regrets with Woodward than he does in public. 'The virus has nothing to do with me. It's not my fault,' he told Woodward July 21.
At the White House, where a scheduled briefing was delayed by an hour amid the release of excerpts, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany brushed aside repeated questions about how Trump could share grave warnings with Woodward while publicly saying the virus would go away.
'The president was expressing calm. The president was hopeful that we would be able to manage this and handle it in a way that we can make it go away as quickly as possible. The president rose to the occasion and did just that,' she said.
She also referenced the financial markets. 'He took this seriously but he still expressed calm. Our food supply chains were at risk. We could not have mass runs on grocery stores. The markets - Also the economy was in play here. We didn't want there to be a huge crash and panic,' she said.
'DANGEROUS' AND DID PUTIN HAVE SOMETHING ON HIM? DEVASTATING VERDICTS OF MATTIS AND COATS
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis once heard President Donald Trump disparaging top military brass, as he and other national security professionals had deep-seated concerns about the president, according to Bob Woodward's new book.
Mattis heard Trump say in a meeting, 'my f***ing generals are a bunch of pussies,' because the military leaders cared more about alliances than trade deals, the book gave as the president's reasoning.
Mattis, who quit the administration in December 2018 after Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, talked to Woodward and called Trump 'dangerous,' 'unfit' and said he had 'no moral compass,' according to excerpts obtained by CNN.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis overheard the comment and also told Woodward he believed Trump was 'dangerous,' 'unfit' and said he had 'no moral compass'
Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats 'continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin had something on Trump,' the book said
He said he quit 'when I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid.'
Mattis also believed Trump's actions on the global stage gave adversaries a playbook on 'how to destroy America.'
After he left the administration, he and Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence, discussed whether they should take 'collective action' and come out publicly against Trump.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Coats 'continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin had something on Trump,' Woodward wrote.
'How else to explain the president's behavior? Coats could see no other explanation,' the famed Watergate journalist continued.
Coats and his staff members had 'examined the intelligence as carefully as possible' and the DNI still had questions about Trump and Putin's relationship. '
'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,' Woodward said. 'But he could not shake them.'
CNN and then The Washington Post posted excerpts Wednesday, minutes before White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was due to brief the press - a briefing that was delayed.
It will be difficult