The head of the White House faces harsh criticism since the prestigious journalist revealed that the president concealed the dangers of the coronavirus.
The books of Bob Woodward about presidents are among the few things that remain predictable in American politics. Everyone knows that sooner or later – and most certainly in the middle of the first term – the legendary journalist will end up writing about them.
So most give in to the well-known offensives of Woodward’s charm and ultimately choose to interview him in order to at least control his part of the story.
Donald Trump did not do it when the journalist published Fear in 2018 and regretted it. When he prepared the next one, he said, he wanted to participate, as Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama did in his day.
Published with less than two months until the presidential election, the result is Rage (Anger), a detailed review of contradictions between what Trump said privately about the threat of the coronavirus to the United States (“It is deadly”, “Very difficult”, “More lethal than the worst flu”) and the reassuring messages that he released for months (“It will disappear miraculously”, “It’s like a flu” …).
On a personal level, Trump is one of the most transparent presidents in US history. His tweets, interviews, and constant blowouts with journalists ultimately give a fairly faithful idea of his views and intentions.
Unless his memory is as short as the news cycle in the US media, no one who has closely followed the evolution and ups and downs of his response to the pandemic can therefore really be surprised at the content of his talks with Woodward. But for some voters it may be new or, with more than 193,000 deaths from the virus, painful to listen to.
A much sharper – and potentially damaging – picture emerges from the talks of what the president knew about the pandemic in early February. By then the US had not yet registered any deaths from Covid and the virus was just beginning to be detected in Europe.
The crisis was not on the radar of the Americans, but the president had been alerted to its destructive potential. Woodward himself, the respected journalist who, together with Carl Bernstein, uncovered the Watergate scandal by pulling the strings thanks to a source he christened deep throat, has had to give explanations for “hiding” that information from the American public opinion.
“It moves through the air,” Trump told him in an interview recorded on February 7. “That is much more difficult than contact. Because you don’t have to touch things, right? But you just breathe the air and that’s how it happens. So it is (a virus) very difficult. Very delicate. It is also more lethal than the worst flu, “he explained to the journalist according to the progress of the book published by The Washington Post and the CNN chain, audios included.
Always watch out for the marketsFor the next several weeks, however, Trump continued to downplay the virus and liken it to a common flu. “They say it will disappear in April, with the heat, like a miracle, I hope they are right …” he told his supporters at a rally a couple of days after that conversation with Woodward.
In mid-March, the president declared a state of emergency (“Two very big words,” he said) and closed borders to travelers from Europe to curb the “terrible infection,” but soon returned to his reassuring messages and accused the press and Democrats of exaggerating the threat to sink the bags and hurt his reelection campaign.
Woodward spoke to Trump again on March 19 and asked for his remarks. Was he deliberately minimizing the issue? He asked. “I’ve always wanted to minimize it. I continue to minimize it because I do not want to create panic, “said Donald Trump, who in that conversation shared some” alarming facts “about the virus. It does not affect “only the old or the very old. Young people too, a lot of young people, ”he told her.
By that time, Europe was closing its internal borders. Spain had already registered more than 11,000 infections and more than half a thousand deaths. According to Woodward’s account, also based on anonymous sources, on January 26, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned the president that the coronavirus would be “The greatest threat” which his presidency would face, although when the journalist asked him about it, Trump said he did not remember it.
Despite being aware of the severity of the pandemic that was coming to the country, “Trump was never willing to mobilize the federal government and continued to divert the problem to the states,” Woodward writes. “There was no managerial theory about how to organize a massive initiative to respond to one of the most complex emergencies the United States has ever faced,” he stresses.
This time, Trump cannot blame the journalist for manipulating his words. This time, Trump is the direct source for much of Woodward’s book, which has released the recording of part of their conversations, 18 in total.
Who recommended him to do it, why did no one stop him, knowing his verbal incontinence? They wonder in their surroundings, concerned about the consequences of the revelations. All sources point to his son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, that the book Rage and a multitude of sources indicate how one of the most detested and at the same time powerful people in the current White House.