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Trump refuses to deny receiving repeated coronavirus warnings in intelligence briefings months ago

President predicts 'tremendous' 2021 for US economy as a top adviser says current crisis is as bad as he's seen

John T. Bennett
Washington
Tuesday 28 April 2020 18:28 BST
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Trump appears to say 'I love everybody' during White House briefing

Donald Trump is not denying that US intelligence officials included warnings about the coronavirus in his daily intelligence briefings as early as January and February, which would have given him possibly two months to take the first federal steps to counter an outbreak that has killed at least 55,000 people in America.

"I would have to check. I would have to check," the president told reporters in the Oval Office. "I want to look as to the exact dates of warnings."

Mr Trump was asked about a news report published Monday, citing intelligence community sources, that his "presidential daily briefing," or PBD, included information warning about a possible pandemic outbreak inside the United States as early as January.

The president spoke after a meeting with Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, who is in the process of reopening the Sunshine State even as public health officials and Democratic legislators continue warning that opening areas too soon or too quickly could lead to the virus spreading – and possibly leading to more deaths.

There are now over 1 million confirmed cases in the United States, according to multiple government and private entities tracking the virus and its spread.

Mr Trump and the governor contradicted one another at one point, something that has been common for the president and his top public health advisers, as well as private-sector executives throughout the outbreak and national lock down.

When the state leader said he is taking a look at continuing to allow flights from South America, Trump asked whether DeSantis soon would be "cutting off Brazil."

"Well not necessarily," DeSantis said, prompting the US leader to ask: "Would you ever want to ban certain countries?" The governor said he would let the White House know if he decided to do so.

On banning flights from Brazil or all international airline flights, Mr Trump said "we'll be looking at that" and promised a decision "soon."

Mr DeSantis defended his decisions to not close his state until late this month, then to start opening it back up. He said other states took more "draconian" measures.

After Mr Trump defended his decision to ban travellers from China, a reporter noted that 40,000 people entered the United States. But he said he had no legal way to keep American citizens from returning to their home country.

"We weren't happy about it," Mr Trump said.

On the economy, one of Mr Trump's top economic advisers, Larry Kudlow, said the virus's impact will be "devastating," but told reporters he is "optimistic" about an eventual bounce-back.

For his part, the president said the second quarter of this year, for the economy, "is what it is," the third quarter will be a "bridge" to a fourth quarter he predicted will be strong.

"Next year," he said, will be tremendous."

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