PRESIDENT Donald Trump was reportedly warned more than a dozen times in official briefings about the threat of the coronavirus — but still downplayed the severity of it.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that during the President's Daily Brief, which includes a summary of reports from intelligence agencies, Trump was warned about what could happen.
He was said to be told during these classified intelligence briefings in January and February of the scale of the virus worldwide and that China "was suppressing information" about the contagious nature of the virus and seemed to be providing inaccurate information about their case numbers and death tolls.
The coronavirus threat was reportedly mentioned more than 12 times before Trump acted, according to the article, which cites "current and former" US officials.
Officials reportedly said that deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger urged the U.S. to cut off air travel from Europe in February — but Trump didn’t act until March.
An official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which manages the briefing, told the Post “the detail of this is not true.”
Richard Grenell, the acting intelligence chief, tweeted: “This isn’t true. And we told you this before you wrote. And you put the DNI denial of your premise in paragraph 9 [of the article.]”
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley added to CNN that Trump made decisions about the outbreak early on in the global pandemic.
"President Trump shut down flights from China and Europe and was called xenophobic, he talked about defeating Coronavirus in the State of Union and [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi tore it to shreds, and he asked Congress for billions to protect hardworking Americans and small business, but the Democrats delayed the bill," Gidley said in a statement.
According to the Post, Trump was being told about the infections by the middle to end of January.
Trump implemented travel restrictions on those coming from China on January 31; It temporarily barred entry by foreign nationals who had traveled in China within the previous 14 days, with exceptions for the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
By that point, nearly 40 countries had already imposed travel restrictions on China, and most major airlines had suspended flights to China after several major international carriers stopped because of the outbreak.
The State Department had already told Americans not to travel to China because of the outbreak.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was coordinator of the task force at the time and announced the travel restrictions, previously said Trump made the decision in late January after accepting the “uniform recommendation of the career public health officials here at HHS.”
The European restrictions imposed a 30-day ban on most Europeans entering the U.S. and didn’t apply to Americans trying to return home, or to citizens of the United Kingdom.
As noted by the Post, Trump said on March 10: “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
The coronavirus was declared a global pandemic on March 11 — which is when he declared a national emergency and announced the European travel ban.
Trump "routinely skips the [President's Daily Briefing] and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week," the officials told the news outlet.
Earlier this year, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was one of the first people to sound the alarm in the White House about the coronavirus threat.
He wrote in two White House memos, sent out on January 29 and February 23, that the country could face catastrophic damage because of the virus.
The economic adviser grimly predicted that two million Americans could die from the deadly virus.
Navarro wrote: "The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil.”
"This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans."
While Navarro speculated that the virus might turn out to be similar to a "seasonal flu,” he went on to claim that "risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked.”
Trump sensed the growing threat, as Navarro's first memo was sent on the day that Trump unveiled the coronavirus task force.
On Monday, the U.S. surpassed one million positive cases of the virus, which accounts for roughly a third of the world’s infections — as more than 56,000 people have died in the country.
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