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Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner bragged in an interview with Bob Woodward on April 18 about Trump "getting the country back from the doctors," in reference to the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, according to audio obtained by CNN.

Why it matters: Trump has campaigned on a message of "opening up" the country after lockdowns designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the spring resulted in widespread economic disruption. But some health experts have criticized states for opening up too fast, leading to a second and third surge of coronavirus infections as Election Day nears.

Between the lines: Trump has faced criticism for attacking his own health experts, including top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci, who he has called a "disaster." At a rally earlier this month, Trump said that his opponent Joe Biden would "listen to the scientists," and that it would result in more economic restrictions.

Driving the news: Woodward conducted two separate interviews with Kushner in April and May for his new book, "Rage."

  • On April 18, after the White House released guidelines for reopening, Kushner told Woodward: "There were three phases. There’s the panic phase, the pain phase and then the comeback phase. I do believe that last night symbolized kind of the beginning of the comeback phase."
  • "That doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of pain and there won’t be pain for a while, but that basically was, we’ve now put out rules to get back to work. Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of – we have, like, a negotiated settlement," he added.

Kushner went on to say that he viewed it as "very smart politically" for Trump to put much of the responsibility for responding to the coronavirus on governors — a decision that has since prompted significant criticism.

  • "The states have to own the testing," Kushner said. "The federal government should not own the testing. And the federal government should not own kind of the rules. It's got to be up to the governors, because that's the way the federalist system works." 
  • "But the President also is very smart politically with the way he did that fight with the governors to basically say, no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country open. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, did the governors follow the guidelines we set out or not?"

The big picture: Kushner also called the Republican Party, "a collection of a bunch of tribes" and said Trump essentially did a "full hostile takeover" of the party when he became the presidential nominee back in 2016.

  • He told Woodward that the "most dangerous people around the president are over-confident idiots," and that Trump had replaced them with "more thoughtful people who kind of know their place."

Go deeper ... Trump's testing czar: COVID surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Off the Rails

The siege

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

On Jan. 6, White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger entered the West Wing in the mid-afternoon, shortly after his colleagues' phones had lit up with an emergency curfew alert from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Jan 22, 2021 - Health

Fauci: Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives

President Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci acknowledged on CNN's "New Day" Friday that the Trump administration's resistance to following the science on coronavirus policy "very likely" cost lives.

Why it matters: Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, clashed on numerous occasions with former President Trump after contradicting him on scientific issues like the efficacy of masks and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in combating COVID-19.