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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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
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.