'Calm, no panic!: Trump denies wrongdoing over Woodward coronavirus revelations as lawyers say it's 'impeachable offence'

‘They were good and proper answers,’ Mr Trump says 

Danielle Zoellner
Thursday 10 September 2020 15:55 BST
Trump responds to Bob Woodward's book likens it to a 'hitjob'

Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing over the statements he made to journalist Bob Woodward early into the coronavirus pandemic, as lawyers have claimed the president playing it down to the public could be an “impeachable offence". 

In a tweet released on Thursday, just one day after news broke about key lines from Mr Woodward’s upcoming book Rage, the president said he gave “good and proper answers” about the pandemic. 

“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months,” Mr Trump wrote. “If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

In excerpts released on Wednesday by the Washington Post and CNN from Mr Woodward’s book, Mr Trump told the award-winning journalist as early as 7 February that he was aware of how deadly the coronavirus could be for the United States.

"This is deadly stuff," Mr Trump told Mr Woodward on 7 February.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” the president added during the recorded interview. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

This admittance happened during one of 18 different recorded interviews the president agreed to have with Mr Woodward for his latest book. 

At the same time Mr Trump was admitting to Mr Woodward that the virus could be “five times more deadly” than the flu, he was publicly saying Covid-19 was no worse than the flu. It would be several weeks before the president and his administration would state the virus was unlike the flu and could be transmitted through the air. 

The first recorded US coronavirus death happened on 29 February. 

Then, in a tweet by the president on 9 March, Mr Trump told the public to “think about” how many the common flu kills each year without the country shutting down. He made this tweet despite previously telling Mr Woodward on tape that the virus was deadlier than the flu. 

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that,” he wrote at the time. 

During another interview with Mr Woodward on 19 March, Mr Trump said he liked to “down play” the seriousness of the virus in order to keep the public calm. 

"I wanted to always play it down," Mr Trump said. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

He made the statement a few days after he declared a national emergency due to the novel virus. 

UCLA law professor Harry Litman, a former US attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, said Mr Trump admitting to downplaying the virus could be an “impeachable offence”. 

“Remember the high crimes and misdemeanors debate?” Mr Litman wrote in a tweet. “This is clearly an impeachable offense, albeit not a crime. The POTUS lied to the American people for political purposes & easily tens of thousands deaths ensued. How more stark and harmful a dereliction of public duty can you get?”

National security attorney Brad Moss has made a similar statement against the president, saying the revelations made by Mr Woodward in his book and the taped conversations should end Mr Trump’s presidency. 

“This should end his presidency. If it doesn’t, god help us,” he wrote. 

The White House has denied any wrongdoing by the president, saying he did not lie or down play the virus to the public. 

"The president has never lied to the American public on covid," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing on Wednesday. 

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