U.S. intelligence agencies warned the president more than a dozen times about the coronavirus pandemic in daily briefing materials throughout January and February, even as the president was still downplaying the threat publicly, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Post reported that issues of the President’s Daily Brief compiled by the intelligence community contained warnings about the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S., including assertions that Chinese officials were covering up the total spread and death toll related to the virus.
Publicly, however, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWest Virginia announces six-week reopening process Americans receive signed Trump letters in the mail explaining coronavirus stimulus checks Coronavirus warnings appeared repeatedly in classified presidential briefings in January, February: report MORE took a markedly different tone, famously declaring in January that the spread of the coronavirus was “under control” and predicting weeks later that the virus would begin to drop off as warmer weather approached.
“Within a couple of days [the case count] is going to be down to close to zero,” Trump said on Feb. 26.
The president declined to form a White House task force on the issue until late February, about a month after the initial warnings began, according to the Post.
White House deputy spokesman Hogan Gidley fired back at the Post’s report in a statement to the newspaper, denying that the president was slow to react.
“President Trump rose to fight this crisis head-on by taking early, aggressive historic action to protect the health, wealth and well-being of the American people,” he said. “We will get through this difficult time and defeat this virus because of his decisive leadership.”