CNN received a new audio recording from Woodward’s April 13 interview with Trump on Friday that sheds new light on the president’s mindset. While Trump Woodward admitted the virus is a “plague” that is “tearing you apart,” he has publicly refused to wear a mask and has disregarded social recommendations.
When Woodward urged the president whether he was worried about infection, Trump dismissed concerns about his own health.
“You risk getting it, of course,” said Woodward. “How you move and have these briefings and deal with people. Are you concerned about that?”
“No, I am not. I do not know why I am not. I am not,” replied the President.
“Why?” Woodward asked.
“I don’t know,” said Trump. “I just am not.”
The exchange described in Woodward’s latest bestseller, “Rage,” shows a president with little concern that he himself may be at risk. Not quite half a year later, Trump announced that he and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, had tested positive for the virus. Trump’s apparent lack of concern about his own vulnerability to the virus adds more detail to a portrait of the president whose health and well-being are vital to the governance of the country.
This carefree attitude towards his health reflects his public stance of downplaying risk. He has contradicted or undermined the recommendations of experts in his own administration. And he has repeatedly said that the end of the virus’s spread is just around the corner. The president’s rosy assessment of the public health crisis hadn’t diminished in the hours before his positive test results were announced early Friday morning. In recorded remarks on Al Smith’s charity dinner Thursday night, the president stated that “the end of the pandemic is in sight”.
But, as Woodward’s book and recorded conversations have shown, Trump has admitted how deadly and contagious the disease is. During his April 13 interview with Woodward, Trump told the journalist that the virus “is so easily transmitted that you wouldn’t even believe it”.
CNN previously reported that Trump told Woodward a story about a meeting of about 10 people in the Oval Office where someone in the room sneezed.
“You know, just one sneeze, the whole room is saved, okay? Including me, by the way,” Trump said.
In other interviews with Woodward, Trump discussed the dangers of the coronavirus and said on February 7 that the disease was “deadly stuff”. These recordings contradict his frequent public comments insisting that the virus “go away” and “all is well.”
The records show that even in the early days of the pandemic, when relatively little was known about the virus, Trump realized he was part of a more vulnerable population. In an interview with Woodward on April 5, Trump stated that the elderly and people with “an illness” would have “big problems” if they contracted the illness.
“It moves fast, Bob. It moves fast and viciously. If you are the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over if you are in the wrong group,” Trump said.
“Well, that’s our age group, isn’t it, sir?” Woodward asked.
“It’s – well, hopefully we’re a lot younger than that, Bob. You look younger. But, but it’s our age range. You know? Older, especially 80. Well, you’re not anywhere near that,” replied Trump.
Woodward is 77 and Trump was 73 at the time. He turned 74 in June.
As Woodward explains in his book, just days after declaring a national emergency, Trump said he liked to downplay the severity of the virus.
“I always wanted to downplay it,” Trump told Woodward on March 19. “I still like to downplay it because I don’t want to panic.”
If, instead of downplaying what he knew, Trump had acted decisively in early February with a strict shutdown and a consistent message on wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing, experts believe tens of thousands of American lives could have been saved.