New Woodward book: Trump admits he wanted to ‘play down’ coronavirus

Trump says America’s rising COVID-19 death toll 'is what it is’

A new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward claims President Donald Trump admitted he tried to minimize the dangers posed by the deadly coronavirus.

The Washington Post, where Woodward serves as associate editor, shared excerpts of the book, “Rage,” on Wednesday.

According to the book, Trump understood the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting the U.S. government had it totally under control.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president reportedly admitted.

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The book is based, in part, on 18 interviews that Woodward conducted with the president between December and July.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president Wednesday, telling reporters during a briefing, “when you are facing insurmountable challenges, it is important to express confidence, it is important to express calm.

“He makes clear that he doesn’t want to see chaos, by the way, which is the second part of the quote which you failed to read,” McEnany said, according to Fox News. “The president just days after having this discussion with Bob Woodward, said this from this podium, on March 30, he said, ‘I do want them to stay calm, we are doing a great job, if you look at the individual statements they are all true, stay calm, it will go away but it’s important to stay calm.’”

According to CNN, the book also includes harsh criticism of the president from people who have worked in Trump’s inner circle from time to time, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former director of national intelligence Dan Coats and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. All three were hired at the start of Trump’s presidency, and Woodward quotes them on their various views about Trump.