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Trump said he wanted to 'play down' coronavirus risk in March despite knowing it's 'deadly stuff'

President Trump always knew COVID-19 was dangerous, but admittedly didn't want to tell Americans that.

Trump talked to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward for Woodward's forthcoming book Rage back during in the early days of the coronavirus' arrival stateside. Trump knew the virus was "deadly stuff" back in early February, he said in a call at the time, but told Woodward on March 19 he wanted to "play it down," a preview of Rage published Wednesday reveals.

Trump had been getting intelligence briefings on the coronavirus months before it was confirmed to have arrived in the U.S. In one briefing on Jan. 28, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien told Trump the virus "will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency," Woodward reports. Others in the room agreed, comparing this virus to the pandemic of 1918. Trump recounted what he'd learned from the COVID-19 briefings to Woodward in a Feb. 7 call, acknowledging it's "more deadly than even your strenuous flu."

But at the same time, Trump was downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 to the nation, accusing the media of hyping it up to panic markets. It took him weeks to start admitting how deadly the virus actually is, though he has downplayed its spread and mortality rate in the U.S. to this day. And in March, Trump told Woodward point blank that this was always part of his strategy: "I wanted to always play it down," he said. Read more at The Washington Post.