Intelligence reports given to President Donald Trump’s administration in January and February pointed to coronavirus becoming a “globe-encircling pandemic” long before Trump took action to prevent it from spreading in the U.S., the Washington Post reported Saturday.
Members of Congress and the Trump administration were receiving the reports even as high-level members of both the Republican and Democratic parties were downplaying the disease. Critically, however, the reports did not make any estimates of when the virus might spread to the U.S., or make suggestions for how to prepare, according to WaPo, which accepted money from the Chinese government for advertising inserts. (RELATED: WaPo, NYT Aiding China’s Global Propaganda Efforts, Watchdog Warns)
As the reports flowed in through January and February, Trump himself declared that the virus was “contained” and that the U.S. faced only some risk of it spreading. (RELATED: Senators Caught Dumping Stocks After Private Meeting On Coronavirus Impact)
“It will all work out well,” he tweeted on January 24.
When 15 cases appeared in the U.S. a month later, Trump continued to downplay the threat.
“When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” he said February 27th. (RELATED: Trump Makes Big Move To Pressure The Private Sector)
Others echoed his tone.
From what we know now, it takes substantial contact with someone who already has coronavirus to contract it. You don’t get it from a surface or very temporary contact.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) February 2, 2020
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan critiqued the president’s handling of the disease in early March, saying the things he was hearing from Trump “sometimes conflict with the information we’re getting from the rest of the administration.”
“He at times just says whatever comes to mind or tweets, then someone on TV is saying the opposite,” Hogan told the Washington Post. “It’s critically important that the message is straightforward and fact-based for the public.”
The White House soon pushed back on the criticism, however, denying that Trump failed to take action.
“President Trump has taken historic, aggressive measures to protect the health, wealth and safety of the American people — and did so, while the media and Democrats chose to only focus on the stupid politics of a sham illegitimate impeachment,” WH Principle Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “It’s more than disgusting, despicable and disgraceful for cowardly unnamed sources to attempt to rewrite history — it’s a clear threat to this great country.”
Trump’s administration has already faced heavy criticism for its weeks-long delay in ramping up testing, a delay the administration blames on an Obama-era regulation. The existence of that regulation has been called into question, however.