Despite White House outbreak, Trump and some aides return to work, flouting CDC guidance

But midafternoon — less than a week after testing positive for the potentially lethal virus — Trump returned to work in the West Wing, potentially endangering any staffers still in the building.

Trump’s presence there sent yet another message to the public that illness has not chastened a president who has consistently eschewed masks and social distancing. His rush to get back to business as usual just two days after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has been the most prominent example of the continued defiance of public health guidelines at the White House. But it isn’t the only one.

Though aides who have tested positive, including counselor Hope Hicks and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, have stayed home, aides who have continued to test negative have remained on the job. Among them were Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Jared Kushner, social media director Dan Scavino and political director Brian Jack, administration officials said.

Kushner was in contact with Christie, Hicks and others involved in prepping the president for last week’s debate. Meadows has been in contact with virtually everyone in the president’s orbit who is now sick. And at least four aides who traveled on Air Force One and Marine One with a maskless Trump last Thursday were in the White House this week, officials say.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence, who aides said has had several negative tests, flew to Utah on Tuesday to prepare for his debate late Wednesday with the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).

Pence attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony — to announce Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — that is suspected to be at the center of the White House outbreak. He was near others during the ceremony who have since tested positive and was in the Oval Office last week with Trump, albeit briefly.

And almost every senior official in the White House this week shared a room with an aide or adviser who has since tested positive, officials said, but they defended their presence by saying it was usually not in “close contact” — or within six feet for more than 15 minutes.

Their decisions reflect a White House that has declined to follow the best medical practices to contain the virus, even as at least 13 employees in the complex have tested positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone exposed to the virus remain isolated for at least two weeks to avoid the risk of spreading the virus to others.

Beyond the White House gates, other Trump aides also have exhibited a reluctance to fully embrace the CDC guidelines — most prominently Attorney General William P. Barr, who also attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony. Despite that, Barr attended a Justice Department meeting Friday and, after several days at home, returned again to his office Wednesday, aides said.

Since news of Trump’s infection was made public last Thursday, Barr has had six coronavirus tests

Read more

BuzzFeed pulls White House reporter over coronavirus concern, saying Trump aides largely not wearing masks

  • BuzzFeed News pulled its political reporter out of the White House press pool.
  • Trump administration aides in the facility have “largely not worn masks” or abided by other basic coronavirus protections, the news site said.
  • President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Trump aide Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany all have tested positive for Covid-19 since last Thursday. So have three White House journalists.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Members of the White House press corps work outside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.


© Provided by CNBC
Members of the White House press corps work outside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

BuzzFeed News pulled its political reporter out of the White House press pool on Wednesday, saying that Trump administration aides in the facility have “largely not worn masks” or abided by other basic coronavirus protections.

The news site’s decision to withdraw journalist Kadia Goba from the press pool came after images showed White House aides standing outside the White House not wearing masks. The pool is comprised of a rotating group of journalists who share details of presidential and facility events with their White House colleagues.

“We will not put our reporters at needless risk of getting a deadly disease — and neither should anyone else,” BuzzFeed Editor Mark Schoofs said in a Twitter post.

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Trump aide Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany all have tested positive for Covid-19 since last Thursday, along with multiple other people connected to the White House and the president.

Three White House journalists also have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since last week.

BuzzFeed News deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako, in his own Twitter post wrote: “The Trump administration aides working in the White House have largely not worn masks or adhered to basic precautions around the coronavirus, including in their contacts with the press.”

“The safety of our reporters is paramount,” Namako added.

BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said that the news site is awaiting guidance from the White House Correspondents’ Association on future pool duty rotations, and on how the health of reporters there would be protected.

Politico reporter Meridith McGraw was dispatched to the White House to replace Goba in the press pool.



a group of people standing around a table: The White House stakeout cam (POOL 5/NY rem 115) caught a group of ten or so (possibly more) mask staffers at the EEOB gathered in close quarters eating outdoors. Many of these staffers were not wearing masks.


© Provided by CNBC
The White House stakeout cam (POOL 5/NY rem 115) caught a group of ten or so (possibly more) mask staffers at the EEOB gathered in close quarters eating outdoors. Many of these staffers were not wearing masks.

Goba told The New York Times, “Anyone that knows me understands I’d rather be at the White House working today … but at the same time, there are obvious concerns about working indoors during an outbreak.”

“I don’t want to be knocked out for the rest of the election because I’m sick,” Goba said.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

McGraw on Wednesday afternoon tweeted a photo showing White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern and Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro talking

Read more

White House aides downplay coronavirus aid chances; Pelosi blasts Trump, but discusses airline help

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of more coronavirus relief, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disparaged President Donald Trump for backing away from talks on a comprehensive deal.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that “the stimulus negotiations are off,” echoing Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, and said in an interview on Fox News the administration backed a more piecemeal approach to help some sectors of the economy.

But in a separate interview with CNBC, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that approach would likely not work either.

“Right now in terms of the probability curve, this would probably be low low-probability stuff.”

On Tuesday evening, after having shut down the negotiations on a comprehensive coronavirus package during the day, Trump wrote on Twitter that Congress should pass money for airlines, small businesses, and stimulus checks of $1,200 for individuals.

Pelosi told ABC’s “The View” that Trump’s tweets were an effort to rebound from “a terrible mistake,” but she brushed aside questions about doing a slimmed-down aid package, still favoring a comprehensive version.

“It is really important for us to come to this agreement,” she said.

Pelosi, however, did ask Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday to review a standalone bill for $25 billion in aid to airlines that Democrats tried to advance last week, her spokesman wrote on Twitter. [L1N2GY0NM]

Mnuchin, who had been Pelosi’s negotiating partner as they tried to reach a comprehensive package in recent days, had asked her about the possibility of a standalone airlines bill in a telephone call Wednesday.

As for Trump’s suggestion about the stimulus checks, Pelosi told ABC: “All he has ever wanted in the negotiation is to send out a check with his name printed on it.”

Trump’s canceling of talks with lawmakers on pandemic aid rattled Wall Street on Tuesday, although Wall Street’s main indexes jumped on Wednesday as investors grew hopeful of at least a partial deal.

The Democratic-led House has already passed legislation seeking a wide range of aid as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, infecting an estimated 7.5 million people in the United States and killing more than 210,000 – the highest in the world. But the measure did not advance in the Senate.

In private negotiations, Pelosi and Mnuchin were unable to close a gap between the $2.2 trillion in new aid Democrats sought and around $1.6 trillion the White House signaled it could accept. But that lower figure was likely to face staunch opposition from some Senate Republicans.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Ross Colvin, Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O’Brien

Source Article

Read more

Trump Aides Unsure They Can Keep Him Contained at White House

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s aides will try to keep him confined to the White House residence after he’s discharged from the hospital with Covid-19 later Monday, but are unsure they can limit his movements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump announced on Twitter that he’ll leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Monday evening after being treated for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He urged Americans not to fear the virus after receiving medical care unavailable to most people, including three powerful medicines and an airlift to the hospital.

“Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

The virus has infected more than 7.4 million Americans and has killed more than 210,000 since February, including 475 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all hospital discharge criteria,” White House physician Sean Conley said at a briefing after Trump’s announcement.

Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods” but the rest of his care can safely be performed at the White House, Conley said.

The president will receive a fourth dose of an antiviral drug, Remdesivir, at Walter Reed before he’s discharged and a fifth dose at the White House, his medical team said.

“He’s returning to a facility, the White House medical unit, that’s staffed 24-7,” Conley said. “Every day a patient stays in the hospital unnecessarily is a risk to themselves.”

Conley said coronavirus patients can stop shedding the virus in as few as five days after diagnosis, and that Trump would be monitored to determine when he is no longer infectious. The White House plans for Trump to stay in the residence for a few days before returning to normal, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

The White House is creating additional room for Trump to work in the residence, and avoid heading into the Oval Office, by converting the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room into office space, according to a person familiar with the matter.

All aides who will see Trump over the next few days will be required to be in full personal protective equipment and maintain physical distance from the president, that person said on the condition of anonymity.

Conley conceded that the course of Trump’s illness could still take a turn. “We all remain cautiously optimistic and on guard because we’re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient that received the therapies he has so early in the course,” he said.

“We’re looking to this weekend,” Conley added. “If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving, better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief.”

Trump has received doses of two other powerful medicines, including an experimental “antibody

Read more

Trump Infection Puts Large Circle of White House Aides at Risk

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump interacted or traveled with a large coterie of top aides and advisers in the days before he was diagnosed with Covid-19, raising the risk of a widespread outbreak within the White House.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 22, 2020.


© Photographer: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
US President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 22, 2020.

The circle of close contacts with the infected president and his wife, Melania, begins with his adviser Hope Hicks, who fell ill on Wednesday night. She traveled with Trump to the presidential debate on Tuesday and to campaign stops in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Loading...

Load Error

She was seen in close quarters with several other officials, including White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.

Depending on how far the virus spreads through the halls of the West Wing and Congress, as well as the president’s campaign headquarters, much more than Trump’s travel schedule may be derailed. Face-to-face negotiations over another round of economic stimulus may be complicated, and the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett could be delayed.

It wasn’t immediately clear when or how the president was infected and how many other White House aides will be asked to quarantine due to contact with the Trumps or Hicks. The typical incubation period for the virus, or time between exposure and emergence of symptoms, is thought to be two to five days.

It is possible, if not likely, the president was infected before Wednesday, when Hicks started exhibiting signs of illness.

Ronny Jackson, the president’s former White House physician, told Fox News early Friday morning that the positive test would “affect everybody who has been around the president” as they would likely need to self-isolate. He cautioned that it’s not yet clear how widely the virus has circulated. Even though Hicks tested positive, “that doesn’t mean that’s the person he got it from,” Jackson told Fox.

“Contract tracing is being done and the appropriate notifications and recommendations will be made,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

Early Wednesday, Trump met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss negotiations over a virus relief package, according to Mnuchin.

Later that day, Trump set off for Minnesota for a fundraiser and rally. Hicks was aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, when it departed the White House for Joint Base Andrews, where Air Force One lands.

Joining her on the helicopter, along with Trump, were the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kusner; social media director Dan Scavino; the president’s body man, Nick Luna; and adviser Stephen Miller.

Meadows and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined the president’s entourage on Air Force One. Meadows was seen chatting with Kushner on the tarmac in Minneapolis, and during the return flight, the chief of staff came back to the press cabin to speak with reporters.

On Tuesday, Meadows attended a meeting on Capitol Hill with

Read more

Trump Infection Puts Large Retinue of White House Aides at Risk

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump interacted or traveled with a large coterie of top aides and advisers in the days before he was diagnosed with Covid-19, raising the risk of a widespread outbreak within the White House.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 22, 2020.


© Photographer: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
US President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on September 22, 2020.

The circle of close contacts with the infected president and his wife, Melania, begins with his adviser Hope Hicks, who fell ill on Wednesday night. She traveled with Trump to the presidential debate on Tuesday and to campaign stops in Minnesota on Wednesday.

She was seen in close quarters with several other officials, including White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.

Depending on how far the virus spreads through the halls of the West Wing and Congress, as well as the president’s campaign headquarters, much more than Trump’s travel schedule may be derailed. Face-to-face negotiations over another round of economic stimulus may be complicated, and the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett could be delayed.

It wasn’t immediately clear when or how the president was infected and how many other White House aides will be asked to quarantine due to contact with the Trumps or Hicks. The typical incubation period for the virus, or time between exposure and emergence of symptoms, is thought to be two to five days.

It is possible, if not likely, the president was infected before Wednesday, when Hicks started exhibiting signs of illness.

Ronny Jackson, the president’s former White House physician, told Fox News early Friday morning that the positive test would “affect everybody who has been around the president” as they would likely need to self-isolate. He cautioned that it’s not yet clear how widely the virus has circulated. Even though Hicks tested positive, “that doesn’t mean that’s the person he got it from,” Jackson told Fox.

“Contract tracing is being done and the appropriate notifications and recommendations will be made,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

Early Wednesday, Trump met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss negotiations over a virus relief package, according to Mnuchin.

Later that day, Trump set off for Minnesota for a fundraiser and rally. Hicks was aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, when it departed the White House for Joint Base Andrews, where Air Force One lands.

Joining her on the helicopter, along with Trump, were the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kusner; social media director Dan Scavino; the president’s body man, Nick Luna; and adviser Stephen Miller.

Meadows and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined the president’s entourage on Air Force One. Meadows was seen chatting with Kushner on the tarmac in Minneapolis, and during the return flight, the chief of staff came back to the press cabin to speak with reporters.

On Tuesday, Meadows attended a meeting on Capitol Hill with Barrett

Read more

Ex-NSC official alleges ‘unprecedented’ intervention by White House aides in Bolton book review

A former National Security Council (NSC) official says the White House intervened in “unprecedented” fashion in the prepublication review process of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton’s defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE’s book in an effort to deem information classified and prevent the memoir’s publication. 

Kenneth Wainstein, a lawyer for Ellen Knight, a career federal employee and a former NSC senior director who led the prepublication review of Bolton’s book, filed a letter in federal court on Wednesday detailing Knight’s concerns with the actions of White House officials in the review of Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where it Happened,” earlier this year. He writes that she harbors concerns about the potential politicization of the prepublication review process.  

Wainstein conveys Knight’s view that NSC lawyers played “an outsize role in the review process” after she informed them of her receipt of Bolton’s manuscript.

For instance, NSC officials oversaw and dictated the timing of correspondence between Knight and Chuck Cooper, Bolton’s attorney, according to the letter. It says that, at one point, Michael Ellis, then the NSC deputy legal adviser, instructed Knight to “temporarily withhold any response” to Bolton’s attorney when he asked that a section of the book on Ukraine be prioritized so that it could become public during President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick ‘threatens’ Affordable Care Act MORE’s impeachment trial.

“These interactions with NSC Legal in the course of a prepublication review were unprecedented in her experience. She had never previously been asked to take the above described measures, and she has never heard that predecessors in her position ever received such instructions in the course of their prepublication reviews,” Wainstein writes. 

The letter, which stretches 18 pages, describes the prepublication review process that took place when Bolton’s more than 500-page manuscript was submitted to the NSC for review at the end of December. 

It says that Knight and her staff worked closely with Bolton, who served as Trump’s third national security adviser, to revise his manuscript and eventually determined that the book did not contain classified information in April.

But, according to Knight’s account, political appointees at NSC intervened, delaying the issuance of a clearance letter to Bolton and ultimately challenging her assessment of the book’s contents. Ellis had conducted his own review of the book, which Knight learned of in the weeks after she informed NSC lawyers that her review was completed. Knight says Ellis undertook a “flawed approach” because he conflated a classification review with a prepublication review.

The letter also claims that White House attorneys sought to persuade Knight to sign a declaration in the administration’s eventual lawsuit against Bolton about her role in the review process that contended

Read more

White House aides tried to block Bolton book, court is told

An aide to Trump also “instructed her to temporarily withhold any response” to a request from Bolton to review a chapter on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine so it could be released during the impeachment trial, wrote Knight’s lawyer, Kenneth L. Wainstein.

Wainstein said that his client had determined in April that Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” no longer contained any classified information, but the “apolitical process” was then “commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose” to go after Bolton. The actions she was asked to take were “unprecedented in her experience,” the letter said.

Knight said that political appointees repeatedly asked her to sign a declaration to use against Bolton that made a range of false assertions. She said that after her refusal, she was reassigned from the White House despite earlier expectations that she would transition to a permanent position there.

“She had never previously been asked to take the above-described measures, and she has never heard that predecessors in her position ever received such instructions in the course of their prepublication reviews,” the letter said.

Representatives for the National Security Council and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, declined to comment on the specifics of the letter but said that his client had not asked Knight to disclose her account of events and that he had received a copy of the letter unexpectedly Tuesday evening.

The filing was an extraordinary twist in the legal saga surrounding Bolton’s book. The Trump administration unsuccessfully sought to block distribution of the book earlier this year after it was already printed, claiming despite Knight’s assessment that it contained large amounts of classified information. It is moving to seize his $2 million advance and has opened a criminal investigation, threatening criminal charges for unauthorized disclosures of secrets.

But the letter called into question the premise of all of those efforts — that the book, in its published form, contains any classified information.

Knight’s account is also the latest in a series of disclosures by current and former executive branch officials as the election nears accusing the president and his political appointees of putting his personal and political goals ahead of the public interest and an evenhanded application of the rule of law.

Wainstein recounted a series of irregularities that he said were unlike any other prepublication review that Knight had handled in her two years working at the National Security Council.

Knight, after extensive work with Bolton to change aspects of his draft to eliminate classified information, had told his team informally that it no longer had any unpublishable material. But the White House never sent a formal letter saying the process was over and political appointees in the White House directed Knight not to communicate with them in writing about the book.

In June, as the delay dragged on, Bolton and Simon & Schuster published the book, arguing that Knight’s informal assurance fulfilled the legal commitment

Read more

Top Pompeo Aides Face U.S. House Democrats Over Saudi Weapons, Official’s Firing | Top News

By Patricia Zengerle and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top aides to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify to members of Congress on Wednesday about the firing of the former State Department inspector general, months after Democratic-led committees launched an investigation into his dismissal.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired Steve Linick from his position as the State watchdog in May, as he investigated the administration’s decision to pursue billions of dollars in military sales to Saudi Arabia despite congressional opposition.

His firing was one of a series of Trump’s dismissals of officials responsible for preventing fraud and abuse at government agencies. The firings prompted concern among members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, over whether Trump was interfering with legitimate oversight.

Linick was also investigating allegations that Pompeo and his wife Susan had misused government resources by having department staff handle personal matters.

On Wednesday three top Pompeo aides – Brian Bulatao, Under Secretary for Management, Acting Legal Adviser Marik String and Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs – will appear before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Underscoring tensions between Congress and the administration over Linick’s firing amid the investigations, Bulatao and String agreed to testify only after the panels announced subpoenas.

“All the facts that we know suggest that there is an aversion to accountability,” a committee aide said.

Congress had requested an investigation into the Trump administration’s May 2019 decision to push ahead with $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by declaring a “national emergency” over tensions with Iran in order to sidestep congressional objections to the sales.

Lawmakers had been blocking many of the sales for months out of concern the Raytheon smart bombs and other equipment might contribute to the human catastrophe in Yemen, where bombings by a Saudi-led coalition have caused heavy civilian casualties.

A report issued by the State Inspector General’s office in August found that State did not fully evaluate the risks to civilians in Yemen when it pushed through the huge precision-guided munitions sale, although it did not violate the law.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Mary Milliken and David Gregorio)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

Source Article

Read more

Top White House aide’s interview goes haywire over Trump coronavirus remarks

An interview with top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday went off the rails after he was pressed about revelations last week that President Donald Trump intentionally downplayed coronavirus in the early months of the pandemic.

Clashing with host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Navarro’s interview cut out as the two men began shouting over one another.

Tapper confronted Navarro about Trump’s tape-recorded comments in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” set to be released this week. In it, Trump told Woodward in a Feb. 7 phone call that coronavirus “is deadly stuff” and worse than the flu. After that conversation, though, Trump publicly downplayed the virus and repeatedly compared it to the flu.

“In February nobody knew,” Navarro said of the novel coronavirus’ potential impact, despite Trump’s comments to Woodward, which were taped. “No, nobody knew. Not the president, not you, not Nancy Pelosi, not Bill de Blasio.”

Navarro then accused Tapper of “cherry-picking” comments the president made. Tapper responded by saying that Trump “was not honest with the American people” about the virus’ impact.

“You’re not honest with the American people,” Navarro said. “CNN is not honest with the American people.”

Navarro also pointed to Trump’s decision to bar some travelers from China in late January, a step he said proved the president viewed the virus as “a serious, serious matter.”

Navarro described the White House strategy from this time as “hope for the best, prepare for the worst, stay calm and begin to attack” the virus. He added that he authored a memo on Feb. 9, two days after Trump’s phone call with Woodward, outlining the need for personal protective equipment and therapeutics.

The Woodward revelations have reverberated in Washington, D.C., and on the campaign trail in recent days. Faced with the conflicting statements and recorded remarks in which Trump said he intentionally downplayed the virus publicly, the president has said doing so was necessary to maintain “calm” and that he didn’t want people to “panic,” insisting Thursday he “didn’t lie” to the American public.

“What I said is we have to be calm,” he said of painting a rosier picture than the reality. “We can’t be panicked.”

Speaking to reporters at the White House then, Trump sidestepped a question on why he was telling the public the virus was “like a flu” when he knew earlier it was much more lethal.

“What I went out and said is very simple: I want to show a level of confidence, strength as a leader,” Trump said.

Trump told Woodward in that February call that he knew the virus was airborne, which was not widely known to the public at the time. In March, he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down.”

“I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said in a recorded March 19 call with Woodward.

More

Read more