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Woodward Writes in Book Trump Admitted He Knew Virus Was Deadly, Intentionally Mislead Public

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Woodward Writes in Book Trump Admitted He Knew Virus Was Deadly, Intentionally Mislead Public

2020-09-10 12:44:50

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Bob Woodward (Image source: Screenshot)


Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bob Woodward is back with another president-damaging book. This time it's a book built on several interviews with Donald Trump and information from other sources, both anonymous and named.

While Woodward was a young reporter for The Washington Post, he teamed up with Carl Bernstein to turn up scandals that were the basis of Watergate. That led to the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon.  They wrote about their investigation in the book "All the President's Men," which was then turned into a hit film.

Woodward went on to win a Pulitzer for his Watergate reporting and won another for participating in The Washington Post's coverage of the 9-11 attacks. He has written 19 political books, with 13 of them becoming bestsellers.

His latest book, "Rage," is about Donald Trump's time in office. He writes of national security adviser Robert O'Brien telling Donald Trump on January 28, "This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency," adding, "This is going to be the roughest thing you face."

Deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger agreed and told Trump that after he spoke with his China contacts, it was clear the world was looking at a health emergency similar to the flu pandemic of 1918.

Trump told Woodward just 10 days later that he thought the situation was much more dire publicly. The country has wondered why he continually passed off the virus as nothing.

"You just breathe the air, and that's how it's passed," the president said in a February 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 stenuous flus." Despite telling the country it was nothing more than the flu and that it would soon disappear, he told Woodward, "This is deadly stuff."

A month later on March 9, the two had another phone call. "I wanted to always play it down," said Trump. "I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."

But there were so many people dead because of his inaction that it was causing a panic anyway. It seems like he still isn't being honest. It's difficult to tell because of his waffling just how concerned he really was.

Woodward writes about more in "Rage" than just Trump's concerns about the pandemic. He discussed the year's racial unrest and the relationship between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un and other issues. He also includes the struggles of some of Trump's former officials as they tried to deal with his unfitness as president.

"Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states," wrote Woodward. "There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced."

Along with talking often about the pandemic, Woodward and Trump also spent much time discussing the racial injustice in the country. Two days after federal law enforcement forcibly removed peaceful protesters from a park near the White House so Trump could walk to a church for a photo opportunity, he called Woodward, telling him about his "law and order" stance.

"We're going to get ready to send in the military slash National Guard to some of these poor bastards that don't know what they're doing, these poor radical lefts," Trump told Woodward.

A few weeks later on June 19, Woodward asked the president about White privilege. He made note that both of them were White men with privileged upbringings of the same generation and suggested they had a responsibility to better "understand the anger and pain" Black Americans feel.

Trump replied, "No," with a tone Woodward says in the book was mocking and incredulous. "You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don't feel that at all."

Woodward discussed the inequality and discrimination, but Trump threw numbers at him that included the pre-pandemic unemployment rate for Blacks. He insisted, just as he has done publicly, that he's done more for Blacks than any other presidents save for possibly Abraham Lincoln.

On July 8 Trump complained to Woodward about not having the Black vote. "I've done a tremendous amount for the Black community," he said. "And, honestly, I'm not feeling any love."

The subject came up again on June 22 when Woodward questioned whether Trump thinks there is "systemic or institutional racism in this country."

"Well, I think there is everywhere," the president answered. "I think probably less here than most places. Or less here than many places."

Woodward asked again whether racism "is here" in the United States, affecting people's lives. Trump replied, "I think it is. And it's unfortunate. But I think it is."

Despite saying that, Trump shared his opinions of  Democratic people of color. Before Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the vice presidential nominee, Trump saw a replay of her calmly watching him deliver the State of the Union address and said, "Hate! See the hate! See the hate!" He said the same thing observing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who was expressionless.

It's not a surprise to anyone that he was dismissive of former President Barack Obama. Trump told Woodward he was inclined to refer to him using his middle name, calling him "Barack Hussein," but wouldn't in front of him to be "very nice."

"I don't think Obama's smart," he continued. "I think he's highly overrated. And I don't think he's a great speaker." He also offered that Kim Jong Un thought Obama was "an asshole."

There is much information in the book as well about Trump and Kim's relationship. Despite intelligence opining that North Korea will probably not ever surrender its nuclear weapons and that Trump's attempts with Kim are ineffective, he told Woodward he's determined to stick with it, noting the CIA has "no idea" how to handle North Korea.

"I met. Big f---ing deal," he said, dismissing the criticisms of his meetings with Kim. "It takes me two days. I met. I gave up nothing."

He compared Kim and his nuclear arsenal to a real estate target. "It's really like, you know, somebody that's in love with a house, and they just can't sell it," he told Woodward.

While Trump didn't share his letters from Kim with Woodward, the author was able to see them through other sources. Kim used flattery to get to Trump, calling him things like, "Your Excellency." The president said he liked that and that he found Kim to be "far beyond smart." The president also noted, "He never smiled before. I'm the only one he smiles with."

Discussing how close the U.S. was to a war with North Korea in 2017, Trump told Woodward, "I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody's ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven't even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There's nobody — what we have is incredible."

Anonymous individuals later confirmed to Woodward that the U.S. military did have a new secret weapons system but declined to provide details. They were surprised Trump discussed it.

Woodward also discusses the thoughts behind former Defense secretary Jim Mattis, former director of national intelligence Dan Coats, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson grappling with whether they should quit.

Mattis went to Washington National Cathedral to pray about his concern for the fate of the country under Trump and told Coats, "There may come a time when we have to take collective action" since Trump is "dangerous. He's unfit."

In another conversation, Mattis told Coats, "The president has no moral compass," and Coats replied, "True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It's just what he thinks. He doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie."

Coats had been recruited for the job by Mike Pence. Coats's wife reportedly recalled a reaction she shared with the vice president at a dinner at the White House. "I just looked at him, like, how are you stomaching this?" Marsha Coats relayed, as retold by Woodward.

"I just looked at him like, this is horrible. I mean, we made eye contact. I think he understood. And he just whispered in my ear, 'Stay the course.' " she had said.

Trump didn't have a great opinion of these men either. "Not to mention my f---ing generals are a bunch of p---ies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals," he told Woodward he'd shared with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, reportedly said, "The most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots." Woodward believes he was referring to Mattis, Tillerson, and former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.

According to Woodward, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to step in to get help for Trump in dealing with efforts for a coronavirus vaccine. He suggested former President George W. Bush speak with him. "No. No," Bush replied to Graham. "He'd misconstrue anything I said." 

July 21 was the last time Woodward and Trump talked. The president said, "The virus has nothing to do with me. It's not my fault."

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