Donald Trump has accused Joe Biden of not taking COVID-19 seriously in February, telling Fox News that he himself was determined to 'show calmness' and not be 'jumping up and down and scaring people'.
Speaking to Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, by telephone from the White House, the president insisted that he had saved the country from the worst ravages of the coronavirus.
He said Biden's team were publicly saying 'no problem'.
'If you look at the representatives of Joe Biden, you see what they were saying,' Trump said.
'They were saying 'no problem', 'this won't be a problem.'
'He didn't think it was going to be a problem until months later. He was way late.'
Donald Trump spoke by phone to Sean Hannity on Fox News on Wednesday night
The president said Biden, pictured on Wednesday, had downplayed the virus
The president also mentioned Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, touring San Francisco's Chintown in late February in an apparent bid to ease fears about the virus.
'Nobody wanted me to do the ban on China, and as you know, shortly thereafter, I instituted a ban on Europe, and that was even more controversial, and it was good, because I saw what was going on in Italy and in Spain and in France, and we did a ban there,' Trump said.
'And if we didn't do those bans, we would have had numbers that were much, much worse.'
Trump has been accused in a new book by Bob Woodward of deliberately downplaying the threat of the virus, with devastating consequences.
He told Hannity that that was part of a strategy to avoid panic.
'We've had flu years when we lost 70, 80, 90,000 people - people don't realize that,' he said. 'We could have lost 2 million, 2.5 million, if we did it a different way.
'But what I want to show is calmness.
'I'm the leader of the country. I don't want to be jumping up and down and scaring people. I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic. And that's what I did.'
Hannity played a clip of Biden saying that 'it was not time to panic about coronavirus'
Sean Hannity spoke to Donald Trump on Wednesday night on Fox News
The president's day was dominated by the fallout from the leaks of Woodward's book, Rage - a sequel to his first book on Trump, Fear, published in 2018.
Asked by Hannity why he agreed to sit for 18 interviews with the famed Watergate reporter, Trump said he thought he'd 'give it a shot'.
'He called,' Trump explained.
'I didn't participate in his last one, and he does hit jobs with everybody. He even did it on Obama.
'So, I figured you know let's just give it a little shot. I'll speak to him, wasn't a big deal.'
The president said he was unlikely to read the book, insisting he'd be too busy.
'I don't know if the book is good or bad. I have no idea,' he said.
'Probably - almost definitely won't read it, because I don't have time to read it.
'But I gave it a little bit of a shot. Sounds like it's not going to be good.'
Trump, pictured on Wednesday, told Hannity that he was unlikely to read Woodward's book
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump admitted he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in order not to cause panic after excerpts from the book were published.
Woodward writes that Trump knew how deadly the pandemic could be even as he said it would go away.
'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.
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 veteran reporter, 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. It's one person, coming in from China. It's going to be just fine.' - During CNBC interview on sidelines of Davos economic forum in Switzerland.
PRIVATE: JAN. 28
Woodward says Trump's head 'popped up' when his National Security Advisor told him in a 'jarring' warning the virus was the 'biggest national security threat' he faced.
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
'Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old- older. 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.
Trump's head 'popped up,' at the 'jarring' warning.
But in public it was an entirely different story. After the briefing he was 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.
Coronavirus (February 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 flu.'
Who it affects (March 19)
'Now it's turning out it's not just old people bad. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people.'
The truth about COVID (March 19)
'I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.'
How bad it is (April 5)
'It's a horrible thing. It's unbelievable.'
The danger (April 13)
'It's so easily transmissible, you wouldn't even believe it.'
Barack Obama (undated)
'I don't think Obama's smart. I think he's highly overrated. And I don't think he's a great speaker.'
'Far beyond smart.' 'Tells me everything.'
'I met. Big f***ing deal. It takes me two days. I met. I gave up nothing.'
Authoritarians like Turkey's Erdogan
'It's funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?'
The top ranks of the military
'My f***ing generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.'
Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (early February)
'Hate! See the hate! See the hate!'
'I've done a tremendous amount for the Black community. And, honestly, I'm not feeling any love.'
'You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you.'
As in his prior work, he relies on anonymous sourcing and 'deep background' information.
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.
'IT'S NOT MY FAULT.' Trump'S FINAL WORDS TO WOODWARD - WHO HE'S NOW BLASTING FOR A 'HIT JOB'
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.
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'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
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.'
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.
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