Sep 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump: Woodward saved virus quotes because "he knew they were good and proper answers"


Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that journalist Bob Woodward withheld recordings of Trump saying his strategy was to intentionally downplay the threat of the coronavirus in February and March because "he knew they were good and proper answers."

Driving the news: Woodward has come came under fire for saving the controversial quotes for the release of his book, excerpts of which were published on Wednesday. Critics argue that Woodward should have warned the public sooner, when Trump was claiming at press conferences that the virus would simply "disappear" and was similar to the flu.

The big picture: On Feb. 7, weeks before the U.S. implemented lockdown restrictions, Trump told Woodward in a taped interview that the virus was airborne and much more deadly than the flu.

  • In March, Trump told Woodward: "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
  • The book also details intelligence briefings Trump received back dating back to January, including an episode in which national security adviser Robert O'Brien warned the president that COVID-19 could be the "biggest national security threat" of his presidency.

The other side: Woodward defended himself to the AP on Wednesday, saying he needed time to check if all of Trump's quotes in the book were correct: "He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?"

  • Woodward said that he was only satisfied that Trump had provided reliable information in May, at which point the virus had spread throughout the country: "If I had done the story at that time about what he knew in February, that’s not telling us anything we didn’t know."
  • Woodward had 18 conversations with Trump for the book, titled "Rage," which is set to release next week.

Go deeper: Why Trump talked to Woodward

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