Buttigieg says White House is “still in denial about” COVID-19 pandemic as VP debate looms

The coronavirus pandemic will play a central role in Americans being able to “really see the difference” between the Biden-Harris campaign and the Trump White House, said former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as both campaigns make final preparations for the October 7 vice presidential debate.

Buttigieg, who was seen Monday in the lobby of a hotel where Senator Kamala Harris is preparing for her debate against Vice President Mike Pence, accused the White House of not wanting to “face reality” in the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Trump returned to the White House after three days at Walter Reed where he was treated for COVID-19. As virus-related fatalities in the U.S. soared above 210,000, Buttigieg said the White House “seems to still be in denial” about the pandemic. 

Kamala Harris will have to contrast that messaging by showing it knows “what it will actually take to confront this pandemic that’s now killed more than 200,000 Americans,” Buttigieg  said on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday.

While the former South Bend, Indiana mayor side-stepped a question on reports that he was acting as Pence in Harris’ debate practice, he did warn the vice president is “a very effective debater.” Vice President Pence served as Indiana governor from 2013 through President Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“I’ve seen him debating for governor and debating for vice president as well. He has an ability to deliver lines with a high degree of confidence, whether they’re true or not,” Buttigieg said. “But of course, saying something with a straight face doesn’t make it true.” 

He said it was up to Wednesday evening’s moderator, USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page, to fact-check the vice president if he wanders from the truth so Harris could “focus on getting out the message about how this country’s going to move forward.” 

Doubts over the Trump administration’s honesty and lack of transparency is leading to an erosion in trust among Americans that Buttigieg called “an incredibly dangerous thing.” 

That lack of trust is the subject of Buttigieg’s new book, “Trust: America’s Best Chance,” in which he argues that trust in each other and U.S. institutions is critical to getting through the tumultuous years he predicts lie ahead. 

He held up Americans’ reactions to the coronavirus pandemic as an example of why trust is critical amid uncertain circumstances.

“Right now researchers are racing against the clock to develop a vaccine, and yet there is polling indicating as many as half of Americans would hesitate to get one,” Buttigieg said. “It’s just one example of how a concept that sounds very theoretical, like social trust, that’s a life and death issue.”

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A White House Long in Denial Confronts Reality

Ms. Hicks, a longtime aide who is one of the president’s closest advisers, was more concerned, colleagues said. She took more precautions than most others and sometimes wore a mask in meetings.

Colleagues said that newcomers to Mr. Trump’s orbit, like Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, never wore a mask in his presence, in what was interpreted by other staff members as an attempt to please the new boss.

As the months progressed, there were so few reported virus cases in the White House — a valet to the president, a top aide to the vice president and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, all tested positive — that aides to the president grew even less concerned.

By June, the month before Mr. O’Brien tested positive, the White House had already stopped conducting temperature checks for people entering the complex. Only those aides who were interacting directly with the president received daily tests. Masks remained rare sightings.

The attitude was widespread in the administration. At the Justice Department in May, Attorney General William P. Barr told a New York Times Magazine reporter who arrived in a mask for an interview that “I’m not going to infect you,’’ and then sat by as an aide suggested, twice, that the reporter take the mask off. The reporter did.

Even on Friday, only hours after the president had announced at 1 a.m. on Twitter that he and the first lady had tested positive, the White House was trying to project that it was business as usual. “We had a great jobs report this morning,” Mr. Meadows told reporters at the White House. “Unfortunately, that’s not what everybody is focused on this morning.”

Nonetheless, they made every effort to carry on with a nothing-to-see-here-folks mentality.

Mr. Meadows, who had been in close contact with the president in recent days, arrived at work without a mask, and continued to claim that a mask was not necessary because he had tested negative. (Mr. Meadows wore a mask when he accompanied Mr. Trump, also in a mask, to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday evening.)

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Woodward Calls Donald Trump ‘A Bulldozer,’ Widespread Denial In White House About COVID-19

Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward characterized President Donald Trump as a “bulldozer” in an interview Tuesday and claimed there was widespread denial among White House staffers about the severity of COVID-19.

“I think there was denial across the board,” Woodward told the Post about White House aides and their knowledge of COVID-19. Woodward described Trump as “a one-man band” who is “going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has.”

“He’s a bulldozer to the staff and, quite frankly, to the country,” Woodward continued. “And he just says what he wants, and so there’s no control. And this is one of the problems of the Trump presidency, that he doesn’t build a team. He doesn’t plan.”

Woodward conducted 17 on-the-record interviews with Trump in order to write his newly released book “Rage.” During one interview with Woodward in February, Trump admitted to downplaying COVID-19. 

“I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward. The comments drew criticism from Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who alleged Trump of lying to the public about the virus.

In an interview with Fox & Friends on Tuesday, Trump said he read Woodward’s new book and called it “very boring.” 

“I actually got to read it last night. I read it very quickly and it was very boring,” Trump told the news outlet. “But there was not much in that book.”

It’s unclear why Trump chose to do the interviews with Woodward. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said Trump wanted Woodward to like him. 

“Trump loves brands, and Woodward has been the gold standard for 50 years of investigative journalism around the presidency, so it’s the same reason why he likes the Gray Lady, he likes The New York Times. It’s the paper of record traditionally in his hometown, so even though both excoriate him, he’s attracted to them the way a low-IQ small moth would be to a flame,” Scaramucci told Politico last week. “Trump is always convinced that if he talks to the person, he is going to elucidate and enlighten that person and get them to like him.”

Woodward began his career at the Washington Post in 1971 and garnered fame for his reporting on the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein in 1972, leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Woodward has written 19 books on U.S. politics and the presidency. He previously wrote “Fear,” an account of the first two years of the Trump administration and “Obama’s Wars,” about the 44th president’s handling of foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Woodward says there was ‘denial across the board’ in White House about severity of coronavirus

“I think there was denial across the board,” Woodward told The Post’s Philip Rucker when asked whether White House staffers who also knew about the lethality of the virus denied its severity. He added that Trump is “a one-man band” who is “going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has.”

“He’s a bulldozer to the staff and, quite frankly, to the country,” Woodward said. “And he just says what he wants, and so there’s no control. And this is one of the problems of the Trump presidency, that he doesn’t build a team. He doesn’t plan.”

Trump has criticized the book, calling it “just another political hit job” and told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning: “I read it very quickly. And it was very boring.”

But he has also acknowledged that he knowingly minimized the danger posed to Americans by the virus, although he insists that his actions did not amount to lying.

Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, defended the administration’s response to the coronavirus in an interview Tuesday morning on NBC News’s “Today” show.

“The president was very forthcoming with the American people about what he knew and when he knew it,” Kushner said.

One of the steps that Trump has frequently touted amid the pandemic is his decision earlier this year to impose restrictions on travel from China to the United States. But Woodward said Tuesday that the action was actually suggested by others in the administration and did not originate with Trump.

“My reporting shows that it was the doctors and the national security team that told the president that he needed to do this, and he okayed it,” Woodward said. “And if this was such a big deal, he would have gone out and announced it. Instead, he sent the secretary of health and human services, [Alex] Azar, to announce it.”

In the Washington Post Live interview, Woodward was also asked about Kushner’s claim to NBC News earlier Tuesday that Woodward “mischaracterized” who he was referring to when he said, “The most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots.”

In his book, Woodward interprets the statement as a reference to former defense secretary Jim Mattis, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.

Kushner did not deny Tuesday that he was referring to the three officials, but he also did not clarify his remarks. “No, that wasn’t clear. And again, he’s got tapes of everything. I have tapes of everything. So, that was never implied in that regard,” he told NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie.

Woodward responded that it was clear that Kushner was talking about individuals within the administration, and that Trump dismissed both Mattis and Tillerson during interviews.

He added: “I’m quite interested in when Jared says he has tapes. I have tapes. I taped him with his permission. I suspect that he was taping me. He did not extend the courtesy to me that

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Former White House Staffer Zach Fuentes’ Denial Trump Called Fallen Troops ‘Losers’ Earns President’s Praise

President Donald Trump considers himself at the forefront of respect for service members and expressed gratitude to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes for denying a report that the president called fallen military members “losers.”



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a news conference at the North Portico at the White House on Monday in Washington, D.C. During the briefing, Trump thanked former White House deputy chief of staff Zach Fuentes for denying a story published in The Atlantic that said Trump called fallen service members "losers."


© Tasos Katopodis/Getty
President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a news conference at the North Portico at the White House on Monday in Washington, D.C. During the briefing, Trump thanked former White House deputy chief of staff Zach Fuentes for denying a story published in The Atlantic that said Trump called fallen service members “losers.”

Fuentes’ denial countered a story published in The Atlantic that Trump canceled a 2018 visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France because he didn’t consider honoring fallen war veterans as important. After having thanked Fuentes on Twitter, Trump told reporters during Monday’s briefing that he was “very happy” that the former White House staffer said the story wasn’t true.

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“Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that,” Trump said. “There’s nobody that has more respect for not only our military but people who gave our lives in the military.”

Fuentes, who worked for former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, told Breitbart on Monday that he didn’t hear Trump say the cemetery, which is dedicated to Americans killed during World War I, was “filled with losers.” Declaring himself to be on the record, Fuentes told Breitbart he wasn’t one of the people who spoke to The Atlantic for the story and said Kelly wouldn’t have tolerated the comment.

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“Honestly, do you think General Kelly would have stood by and let ANYONE call fallen Marines losers?” Fuentes said.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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