Trump knew Covid was deadly but wanted to ‘play it down’, Woodward book says

Trump knew Covid was deadly but wanted to ‘play it down’, Woodward book says

  • US president gave Bob Woodward 18 interviews, forming basis of new book Rage, and said of virus: ‘This is deadly stuff’

Donald Trump knew the extent of the deadly coronavirus threat in February but intentionally misled the public by deciding to “play it down”, according to interviews recorded by one of America’s most venerated investigative journalists.

The US president gave Bob Woodward 18 interviews between December 2019 and July 2020. They form the basis of his revelatory new book, Rage, obtained on Wednesday by the Washington Post and CNN, in which Trump is condemned by his own words.

Just two months before he seeks re-election, Trump is quoted describing former president George W Bush as “a stupid moron” and mocking the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality and an end to police brutality.

The book also reports that the US may have come close to nuclear war with North Korea in 2017.

Rage displays the chasm between Trump’s public and private statements on the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 190,000 Americans and caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

As early as 28 January 2020, Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, gave him a “jarring” warning, informing the president that Covid-19 would be the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. Trump’s head “popped up”, the book says.