Trump denies ignoring early coronavirus pandemic warnings

March 23, 2020

NEW YORK, Mar 23 (NNI): US President Donald Trump has rejected as “inaccurate” a report that he ignored early warnings from American intelligence agencies about the threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak in China and repeated recent attacks on the press.

The agencies sounded the alarm in January and February but the president continued to minimize the risk and failed to act, the Washington Post reported.

“We didn’t know about it” until it “started coming out publicly,” he said, when asked for comments on the Post’s report.

In his rejoinder, Trump attacked the newspaper without dealing with any of the substance of the allegations contained in the report.

“I think the Washington Post covers us very inaccurately, covers me very inaccurately,” he told reporters at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. “I saw the story. I think it’s a disgrace but it’s the Washington Post and I guess we have to live with it. It’s a very inaccurate –”
As a journalist tried to interject, Trump raised his hand, saying: “Quiet, Quiet.”

He went on to highlight his decision to restrict travel from China. “From many people I get a lot of credit for having closed our country very early to a very heavily infected country. China, unfortunately, China.

“I wish China would have told us more about what was going on in China, long prior to us reading about it.”

Trump criticized Beijing for expelling New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal correspondents but added: “I also think it’s terrible when people write inaccurately about you and they write inaccurately about me every single day, every single hour.” China said it acted against the American newspapers in retaliation for the restrictions imposed by the Trump administration against Chinese correspondents in the US.

The president went on to praise the questioner, who works for the right-wing and pro-Trump One America News Network. The president added: “I didn’t act late. I acted early. I acted far before anybody thought I should be. I took tremendous criticism from the various papers.”

The Post’s report said intelligence agencies did not predict when the virus might reach the US or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take. “But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak,” the report said.

It added: “Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans.”

Trump spent much of January and February downplaying the crisis, comparing the pathogen with common flu, suggesting it will fade away in warm weather and ruminating, “One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear”.

His 2016 election rival, Hillary Clinton, tweeted on Saturday: “The Trump administration was told in January that coronavirus was likely to become a pandemic. They refused to act for fear of spooking the markets, losing weeks of time to prepare that we won’t get back.

“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were, they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” a U.S. official told the Post. “The system was blinking red