According to a new book, President Donald Trump knew Covid-19 was deadlier than the flu before it hit the US but wanted to play down the crisis.
Bob Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal and is one of the nation’s most respected journalists, interviewed President Trump 18 times from December to July.
President Trump is quoted as telling Bob Woodward the virus was “deadly stuff” before the first US death was confirmed.
Responding, Donald Trump said he had wanted to avoid causing public panic.
Some 190,000 Americans have been recorded as dying with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
On September 9, some media released parts of the interviews between the president and the journalist, revealing his reported remarks on the outbreak as well as race and other issues.
Here are some of the key quotes so far from Rage, which will be released on September 15.
President Trump indicated that he knew more about the severity of the illness than he had said publicly.
According to a tape of the call, President Trump told Bob Woodward in February that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu.
“It goes through the air,” President Trump told the author on February 7.
“That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, 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.”
Later that month, President Trump promised the virus was “very much under control”, and that the case count would soon be close to zero. He also publicly implied the flu was more dangerous than Covid-19.
Speaking on Capitol Hill on March 10, President Trump said: “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
Nine days later, days after the White House declared the pandemic a national emergency, the president told Bob Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Speaking from the White House on September 9, President Trump told reporters: “I don’t want people to be frightened, I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and 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.”
President Trump – who is running for re-election in November – said the Bob Woodward book was “a political hit job”.
Responding to reporters’ questions on the book, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “The president never downplayed the virus, once again. The president expressed calm. The president was serious about this.”
In a tweet, Joe Biden said that “while a deadly disease ripped through our nation, [President Trump] failed to do his job – on purpose. It was a life or death betrayal of the American people”.