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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told a small, private group of constituents on Feb. 27 that the coronavirus outbreak was "akin to the 1918 pandemic," audio obtained by NPR shows.

Why it matters: "The 1918 pandemic," or the Spanish flu, killed millions worldwide — and Burr's comments directly contradicted those from President Trump on that same day, when the U.S. had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases.

What Burr said: "There's one thing that I can tell you about this — it is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history. It's probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

  • "Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they're making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference."
  • "There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, let's close schools for two weeks, everybody stay home."

What Trump said that same day at a White House meeting: "It's going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better."

  • "It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows."

The big picture: Burr did not sound a similarly strong alarm to a wider, more public audience.

  • The gathering was organized by Tar Heel Circle, a business-oriented North Carolina group with a membership fee between $500 and $10,000.
  • NPR found that the businesses and organizations present at the meeting had donated more than $100,000 to Burr's 2016 campaign. He has said he does not plan to run for re-election in 2022.

A spokesperson for Burr told NPR that Burr has "worked to educate the public about the tools and resources our government has to confront the spread of the coronavirus."

Go deeper

Blockbuster Supreme Court day

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will give conservatives a lot of what they want — but not quite everything.

Driving the news: It voted 9-0 to carve out religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies have a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. But it also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act, saying Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit.

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair discusses the bills to bust up Big Tech

House lawmakers last week introduced a series of five bipartisan bills designed to curb the power of Big Tech, targeting Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google in all but name.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the House antitrust committee and a sponsor on most of the bills, to learn how he plans to get these measures over the finish line. The congressman from Rhode Island also faces a slate of other priorities and in the wake of a spending package to bolster the U.S. tech sector’s ability to compete with China.