Trump admits downplaying coronavirus dangers, new Bob Woodward book says

President Donald Trump announces opioid response grants to state governments in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, September 4, 2019.

Erin Scott | Reuters

President Donald Trump admitted that he wanted to publicly downplay the threat of the coronavirus even as his advisors warned him about the dangers of the disease, Bob Woodward wrote in his forthcoming book about the Trump administration, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward in mid March, CNN reported. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” 

CNN, which also published audio of Woodward’s March 19 interview with the president, reported Woodward writing that Trump had been informed weeks before Covid-19 claimed its first lives in the U.S. that the virus was dangerous and highly contagious.

Less than three weeks before that interview reportedly took place, Trump had assured that the virus would “disappear.”

“One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” Trump said in public remarks on Feb. 28.

But the president had already been told in late January by national security advisor Robert O’Brien that the coronavirus “will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,” Woodward wrote in the book, according to a separate report from The Washington Post.

Despite his frequent claims that the disease would simply “go away” or “disappear,” Trump reportedly told Woodward in a Feb. 7 phone call that he understood the virus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

Yet later that same month, Trump said publicly that “when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

“Rage,” Woodward’s second book on Trump’s presidency, is due out Sept. 15.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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