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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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President Trump said during an ABC town hall Tuesday evening that he did not downplay the coronavirus, adding "in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action."

Reality check: The president told journalist Bob Woodward during an on-the-record interview in March that he intentionally understated the severity of COVID-19 in public statements to avoid inciting panic.

What they're saying: An audience member at the ABC event asked the president: "If you believe it's the president's responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that's known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?"

  • "So that was called action," Trump said in response. "Not with the mouth, but an actual fact ... Because what I did, with China, I put a ban on, with Europe, I put a ban on."
  • "We would have lost thousands more people had I not put a ban on. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important. So, we saved a lot of lives when we did that. 
  • Asked by host and ABC News Chief George Stephanopoulos if the number of Americans who have died from the virus causes him pause and whether his administration could have done something differently, Trump replied, "I think we could have had 2 million deaths if we didn’t close out the country."
  • The president repeated his claim that the virus will disappear. "It's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines," he said. "It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it."

The big picture: Trump added that he restricted travel from China to slow the spread of the virus and claimed the policy was singularly his idea.

  • Woodward recently told NBC News that limiting travel from China was not Trump's idea, but was recommended at a January meeting by leading health experts in the administration, including Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

On health care, Trump claimed his administration is pursing an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that would cover pre-existing conditions, which is already covered by ACA.

  • "But what we’re doing is, we’re going to be doing a health care plan — preexisting, protecting people with preexisting conditions," he said.
  • Stephanopoulos noted that Trump has been promising a new health care plan since his 2016 campaign and his administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down ACA — including its pre-existing condition protections.

On the military, the president pushed back against criticisms from former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, each of whom have claimed that he is unfit for office.

  • "These are people that I let go. These are disgruntled former employees," Trump said. "We're actually creating peace in the Middle East," Trump said, referring to a peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed Tuesday.

On law and order, Stephanopolous noted that Trump "promised four years ago at the Republican Convention, [he would] restore law and order," to which Trump claimed, "And I have, except in Democrat run cities..."

  • Stephanopolous: "Mr. President, you’re president for those cities for those cities right now."

Go deeper: Watch the full "Axios on HBO" interview with President Trump

Go deeper

China is the greatest, growing threat to America

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

China has outlined strategies for 2018, 2025 and 2050 all designed to displace the United States as the dominant global economic and national security superpower.

Why it matters: While America dawdles and bickers, China is thinking long-term — and acting now, everywhere. There is no U.S. equivalent of a plan for 2025 or 2050 — or really for next year. 

Updated Apr 18, 2019 - Politics & Policy

What the Mueller report tells us about Trump and Russia

President Trump at the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The first part of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report addresses Russian interference in the 2016 election and any role the Trump campaign may have played in those efforts.

What to know: Mueller defines election interference as comprising of 2 sets of efforts: The social media disinformation campaign carried out by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, and the hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails by Russian intelligence officers. He narrowly defines "coordination" as an "agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference."

This post is breaking news and will be updated.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Dec 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden says Russian-linked cyberattack started "last year"

President-elect Biden speaks Tuesday. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Biden said during his remarks in Wilmington on Tuesday that the Russia-tied cyberattack, which formerly was known to go back to as early as March, began "at least last year."

Why it matters: An administration source verified the earlier breach date — compounding the work and expense involved in rooting out the intruders, discovering what was lost and fixing for the future.

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