Who Could Have Foreseen Talking to Bob Woodward Would Generate Bad Headlines?

Former Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein speak before the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., April 29, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Bob Woodward’s latest book about the Trump presidency, Rage, is coming out soon, and Woodward’s paper, the Washington Post, revealed a lot of the book’s big scoops this afternoon. Perhaps the most troublesome for the president is his statements to Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was “deadly stuff,” but that he played down the threat to avoid a panic.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “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.

At that time, Trump was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control. It would be several weeks before he would publicly acknowledge that the virus was no ordinary flu and that it could be transmitted through the air.

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

The Post has shared the audio of the president saying these words. Unlike the anonymously sourced statements from Trump in Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic, this is Trump, on the record, saying this to Woodward, knowing he is being recorded. Trump did 18 on-the-record interviews with Woodward.

Just what did President Trump think was going to happen when he told the most famous investigative reporter of his generation, “I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic”?