White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump, supporters gather without masks in NC despite request from local GOP official McConnell works to lock down GOP votes for coronavirus bill Trump’s battles with military raise risks for November MORE said Wednesday he would not have recommended journalist Bob Woodward gain as much access to the White House as he did in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic had Meadows been in his chief of staff role at the time.
“I’m not surprised that the president was on the phone with Bob Woodward. … His access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the chief of staff role very early on,” Meadows said on Fox News’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” when asked if he was surprised by how much time Trump spent talking to Woodward for his forthcoming book.
“But it’s the typical thing that the president does. He believes that he has nothing to hide. That’s the great thing about him is that he is willing to talk to anybody about any subject no matter how difficult,” Meadows added.
Meadow’s characterization of Trump’s openness came amid intense scrutiny the president faced on Wednesday after The Washington Post reported that Trump spoke with Woodward during 18 separate interviews in which the president acknowledged that he was downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to the public as early as February.
Host MacCallum asked Meadows if Trump’s comments about downplaying the threat of the virus are “problematic for the president.”
“Well, I think any great leader, what they do is they take information that they have, they make sure that they vet it with, in this case, it was with their advisers, both doctors and those within the White House to actually make sure that we made prudent decisions,” Meadows responded
“But what we — you don’t want to do is create panic. But at the same time, it was an all hands on deck. I can tell you, not only did that happen in January and February, but when I came on board in March, it was around-the-clock, vigilant effort to make sure that this president did everything he could to address it.”
He added that “what we know about the virus is different than what we knew at that time.”
Meadows joined the White House as Trump’s fourth chief of staff in March, leaving his term as a congressman from North Carolina early. He was set to retire from Congress at the end of the year.
Asked after the recordings with Woodward were released if he downplayed the virus or misled the public to avoid panic, Trump told reporters, “If you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that’s so.”
“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country,” Trump added. “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.”
Woodward’s book “Rage” is set to be released next week.