Trump downplayed COVID risk to reduce panic: Book

As per the book, Trump insists to Woodward he would triumph over the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic calamity.
File Photo of Donald Trump
File Photo of Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has acknowledged downplaying the dangers of the deadly novel coronavirus as he did not want to create panic, according to a new book by a renowned US investigative journalist.

The book, 'Rage', by Bob Woodward is being described by the publisher as an "unprecedented" and "intimate tour de force" of new reporting on the Trump presidency that is facing a pandemic, economic disaster and racial unrest. It is scheduled to hit the stores on September 15, less than two months before the November 3 presidential elections.

Excerpts of the book and clippings of the interviews with Trump were released by Woodward to some media outlets on Wednesday.

"I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward in March, a recording of which was released by the veteran journalist to 'The Washington Post'. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

In another interview on February 7, the audio clip of which was posted by 'The Washington Post', Trump told the journalist that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu and could be transmitted through the air.

"That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breath the air and that's how it's passed," he said. "It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."

As per the book, Trump insists to Woodward he would triumph over the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic calamity.

"Don't worry about it, Bob. OK?" Trump told the author in July. "Don't worry about it. We'll get to do another book. You'll find I was right."

The president on Wednesday defended his decision to downplay the dangers posed by the pathogen, refuting allegations that he lied to the people of the country.

"The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country, I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened," he said. "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."

Trump underlined that the administration wanted to show confidence and strength as a nation amid the pandemic.

"And that's what I've done. And we've done very well," Trump said. "We don't want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem that is a tremendous problem — scare everybody."

Trump pointed out that the administration immediately started buying masks other health equipments during the early stages of the outbreak. "And we don't want to cause pricing to go up to a level that becomes almost unaffordable," he said.

Woodward defended his decision to delay release of the excerpts of his interview with Trump.

"I told him it was for the book," Woodward told The Washington Post. "But as far as promising not to publish in real time or signing such an agreement… I don't do that."

'Rage' draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses as well as participants' notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents. Woodward has as many as 18 on-the-record interviews, which began in February.

The book also covers race relations, diplomacy with North Korea and a range of other issues during the past two years.

Woodward obtained 25 never-seen personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a "fantasy film".

In one of the interviews, Trump told Woodward that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was "highly overrated".

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump's decisions.

"This president does what leaders do — good leaders: stay calm and resolute at a time when you face an unsurmountable challenge."

"That's what the president has done," she said in response to a question. "The president was expressing calm and his actions reflect that."

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