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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

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker
Dec 18, 2020 - Health

Italy orders holiday season coronavirus lockdown

Two soldiers wearing face masks patrol Duomo Square in Milan, Italy on Dec. 13. Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Friday that he has ordered a national lockdown for the Christmas and New Year's holidays as the country continues to see a surge in cases and deaths.

Why it matters: Italy has been one of the hardest-hit Western countries, with 67,894 coronavirus-related deaths as of Friday — the most in Europe.

Dec 18, 2020 - World

Mexico City bans nonessential activities as COVID-19 cases overwhelm hospitals

Relatives of patients hospitalized in the General Hospital of Zone 1 of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) wait outside for updates. Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico City and the neighboring State of Mexico will ban nonessential activities in an effort to curb a spike in COVID-19 cases that has overwhelmed hospitals, officials announced Friday.

Driving the news: Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said hospital capacity is at about 75%, but the federal government put the number at 80%, per AP. Families have reported searching for hours to find open hospital beds in the capital.