Rage by Bob Woodard

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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:47 pm

The New York Times headline the morning of Tuesday, March 10: “Markets Spiral as Globe Shudders Over Virus.” The markets had plunged the day before. The Times wrote it was “their sharpest drop in more than a decade.”

In remarks to reporters following a meeting with Republican senators, Trump said, “We’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” Virus cases in the United States were up by more than 200 from the day before.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:51 pm

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said at 9:00 that evening. “From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats,” Trump read. “This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond.”

The president announced he was halting travelers from most European countries for the next 30 days.

“Last week, I signed into law an $8.3 billion funding bill,” he said. Several hundred times that would soon be required.

“The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low,” Trump said. “Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.” He made no mention of social distancing—staying six feet apart from others—and urged only those who were sick or not feeling well to stay at home.

“This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time,” he said reaching to calm the markets. “The virus will not have a chance against us.… Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.”

The speech received poor reviews. Trump seemed depleted on air, not in command of the material. He displayed none of the verve of the spontaneous, engaged true believer of his political rallies.

Peggy Noonan wrote the next day in The Wall Street Journal, “The president gave a major Oval Office address Wednesday night aimed at quelling fears; it was generally labeled ‘unsettling.’ ”

That day, March 11, marked the beginning of a new consciousness in the country. There were over 1,000 cases and 37 deaths in the country. Colleges across the U.S. announced they were suspending classes. The actor Tom Hanks said that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for Covid-19 and would quarantine.

More dominoes fell. The next day, the NCAA announced it was canceling basketball tournaments and suspending all remaining games for the season. Trump acknowledged he would likely have to cancel his upcoming rallies. Broadway theaters closed.

Testifying before Congress, Fauci said that testing for the virus was “failing. I mean, let’s admit it.” The distribution of faulty test kits had prevented officials and scientists from getting a clear picture of the number of infections in the crucial early days of the virus’s spread across the U.S. By the beginning of March, fewer than 500 tests had been conducted.

The Dow Jones fell 10 percent on March 12, prompting The New York Times banner headline: “WORST ROUT FOR WALL STREET SINCE 1987 CRASH.” A giant chart on the front page of The Wall Street Journal showed the surging growth in the Dow from the early days of Obama’s eight-year presidency and the first three years of Trump’s. Then it fell off the cliff, down 20 percent since 2009.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by Cortopassi » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:51 pm

I wonder, Vinny, if you are breaking any copyright laws here! ::)
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:51 pm

On March 13, Trump declared a national emergency, the sixth of his presidency. He also announced the launch of a Google-related website that could “determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.” This would “cover the country in large part.” Shortly after, Google tweeted that the tool in one of its small subsidiaries was still in development and was only intended to cover the Bay Area.

For two days straight that weekend, every story on the front page of The Washington Post was Covid-related. Americans cleared store shelves of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. The White House began instituting temperature checks. New York City announced the closure of its schools.

Matt Pottinger moved out of his small office in the national security adviser’s West Wing suite to an office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This would keep him and O’Brien separate, so one would be able to run the NSC if either got sick. Pottinger began wearing a mask and handed them out to the NSC staff working in the Situation Room. He couldn’t require the staff to wear masks, but he urged them to. He and O’Brien had been using hand sanitizer for weeks.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:51 pm

Birx, Fauci and Kushner had privately been exchanging drafts of guidelines that would ask Americans to take “15 Days to Slow the Spread” of the coronavirus and effectively shut down the country. They’d sent them back and forth a few times, and Jared Kushner had looked at a draft and made some comments. Kushner’s team worked on it for almost 24 hours straight, wrote it up with Derek Lyons, the staff secretary, then sent it to Fauci.

When Kushner got involved, it seemed to Fauci that meant the president would know more detail. No doubt Kushner would explain everything to him. That’s good, Fauci thought, because that gave them a direct line to the president.

When Senator Lindsey Graham first heard early discussion about shutting down the country, he thought it was crazy. Then he saw projections of possible 2.2 million dead.

“I’m no expert here,” Graham told Trump, “but if these projections are anywhere near right and you ignore them, you’re going to have a unique place in history. Mr. President, if these things are remotely right and you don’t act, it would be devastating to your presidency.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:53 pm

Trump gathered his team in the Oval Office that Sunday, March 15. Pence, Mnuchin, Fauci and Birx crowded around the Resolute Desk.

Fauci and Birx unrolled the guidelines to Trump. Physical separation is the key, they said. We should close down for at least 15 days to see what happens. They wanted to ask all Americans to work and attend school from home; to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people; to stay away from restaurants and bars; and to avoid traveling, shopping and visiting loved ones at nursing homes. They would recite the now familiar public health litany: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, sneeze into a tissue, and disinfect surfaces.

The final draft shows the weakness of having too many hands on the drafting process. Nowhere do the guidelines urge social distancing—staying six feet away from others—one of the most effective universal mitigations.

If we can follow the guidelines for 15 days, they said, and close everything down, perhaps we can start to “flatten the curve”—in other words, to spread out the number of infections over time to avoid overwhelming the health care system all at once.

As Trump listened, Fauci and Birx went back and forth with a skeptical Mnuchin.

I’m concerned about what’s going to happen economically, Mnuchin said.

Well, you know, Trump finally said, let’s try it for 15 days. Maybe we’ll be able to open up for Easter.

I don’t think we should guarantee that, Fauci said. We won’t be able to see the effect yet after 15 days.

Okay, let’s give it a shot, Trump said.

I’m worried, Mnuchin said. But he didn’t fight the decision.

That day at the briefing, Trump said, “This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.”

That same day, Kushner got another grim wake-up call. He was working on ramping up more testing sites and went to a briefing at the Health and Human Services offices. We’ve got bad news, he was told. There are only 1.2 million swabs available for administering tests in the country.

It was a brutal realization. After being involved for four days, the scope of the problem was becoming clear. What good were tests if you didn’t have the swabs to administer them?
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:11 am

Trump announced the “15 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines the next day, March 16, at the coronavirus task force briefing. Asked about his frequent assertion that the situation was under control, Trump acknowledged, “The virus, no, that’s not under control for anyplace in the world.” He added, “I was talking about what we’re doing is under control, but I’m not talking about the virus.”

Kushner told others the guidelines were “very thoughtful, very well-received and acclaimed by D’s and R’s.”

Graham believed Trump’s decision to shut down for 15 days was probably the first time in Trump’s life when he had to make a decision that was not in his best interest politically or financially. Graham was convinced Trump did it because he believed he had the power to save people’s lives. He had chosen the road that would be the most detrimental to his number-one issue—the economy.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:12 am

For Redfield it was one of the most difficult times of his four-decade professional life. “15 Days to Slow the Spread” was important, but not enough.

In private he told others of his deepest fears. “It’s not to stop the spread,” Redfield said. “We were now in a race. I think we all understood now we were in a race. We’re in a marathon. We’re in a two-year, three-year race. Not a one-year, not a six-month race. The race is to slow and contain this virus as much as humanly possible, with all our efforts, till we can get a highly efficacious vaccine deployed for all the American people and then beyond that to the rest of the world.”

All the talk about the virus going away or disappearing was medically false.

In his agony, he recalled a parallel situation. Years ago when he had opened the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine they brought in a group of scientists from around the world. One from Princeton posed a question: Suppose we knew that 15 years out a meteor was hurtling to the earth and going to run smack-dab in the middle and destroy the planet and blow everyone to bits. The question was how do you change that? How do we change the center of gravity, presumably of the meteor or even earth? The current race again the virus was the same.

His worry could not be deeper. “This virus will stop when it basically infects more than 70 percent of the world, or 80 percent of the world,” Redfield told others. “Or the world develops a biological countermeasure that stops it,” he added, referring to a vaccine. The meteor was heading to earth.

As states, cities, businesses and individuals began to implement the guidelines, the country effectively began to shut down.

In a tweet on March 16, Trump wrote, “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!” This appears to be the first time Trump publicly referred to Covid as the “Chinese virus.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:25 am

Three days after Trump announced “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” I conducted my eighth interview with him.

“This thing is a nasty—it’s a nasty situation,” Trump told me about the coronavirus on March 19, 2020.

Earlier that day, California governor Gavin Newsom had become the first governor to order residents to stay home except for essential needs—the first of a wave of shutdown orders across all 50 states that would eventually lead to tens of millions of unemployment claims and the nation’s greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The nation’s death toll from coronavirus was still less than 200.

In our interview, the president spoke with pride about his leadership. He blamed China and President Obama and continued to accept no responsibility.

“I think we’re doing very well,” the president said. “We have to see what happens. We have it very well shut down. The American people are terrific. You know, what they’re putting up with.”

In the course of the 40-minute phone call, Trump at three separate points brought up the story of his January 31 decision to bar foreigners coming from China to enter the United States. The decision had averted “tremendous death,” he said.

“Had I not done that, there would’ve been massive numbers of deaths by now,” Trump said. “It was a big move. Because you know, we take in thousands of people a day from China. And China was heavily infected.”

According to Trump, he made the decision in the face of great resistance from within and outside his administration.

I asked about his 13-year-old son, Barron. What did you tell him? I asked. The president told me about a moment days earlier when Barron had asked him about the coronavirus.

“He said Dad, what’s going on? What’s going on?” Trump told me. “I said, it’s a very bad thing, but we’re going to straighten it out.

“He said, how did it happen?” Trump continued. “I said, it came out of China, Barron, pure and simple. It came out of China. It should’ve been stopped. And to be honest with you, Barron, they should’ve let it be known it was a problem two months earlier. And the world would not—we have 141 countries have it now. And I said, the world wouldn’t have a problem. We could’ve stopped it easily. And they didn’t want to do the—they waited and waited. Kept it secret, secret. Then we started hearing things coming out. I told him how it was working. And I said, and now the whole world is infected and inflicted with this.”

It was apparent the president was aware of the criticism he was receiving about his handling of the coronavirus. After surviving the 22-month-long Mueller investigation and the third impeachment trial in United States history, the real dynamite behind the door was the virus. The lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans hung in the balance with every decision he made in dealing with the coronavirus.

In our interview, he seemed to understand the deadly severity of the disease.

“Part of it is the mystery,” Trump said. “Part of it’s the viciousness. You know when it attacks, it attacks the lungs. And I don’t know—when people get hit, when they get hit, and now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people.”

I asked Trump what had caused the shift in his thinking about the virus. “It’s clear just from what’s on the public record that you went through a pivot on this,” I said, “to, oh my God, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.”

Just two days before, at the task force briefing, Trump had gone so far as to claim, “I’ve always known this is a—this is a real—this is a pandemic. I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

The president maintained his upbeat rhetoric in the early weeks of the virus had been deliberate.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told me, as I reported earlier in this book. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Trump said that the daily press briefings with members of his White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Pence, were helping turn the tide of public opinion and making the public see his response in a more positive light.

“You know the news conferences I’ve been doing on a daily basis, because I think it keeps people informed and it’s been good, they’ve gotten very good reviews but they’ve also gotten unbelievable ratings,” he said.

The rambling, repetitious, often defensive and angry monologues eroded confidence in his grasp of the problem and his leadership. I asked Trump what his next steps were.

“My next step is I’ve got 20 calls waiting for me on this stuff, and I’ve got to get making them. Okay? That’s my next steps. My next step, Bob, is I have to do a great job,” Trump replied. “And I have to be very professional… I think that people are respecting what’s happening. And I think frankly since I started doing the news conferences, it’s all turned around.”

He had spoken at over 10 White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings and had begun holding them daily.

“Because we’ve done a great job. You’ve got to always say one of the best parts of the great job was the shutdown of China very, very early.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had given an 80-minute press briefing in which he promoted the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine as an alleged treatment for the virus. “If things don’t go as planned,” he said, “it’s not going to kill anybody.”

Studies later indicated the drug could cause serious heart problems, and the FDA in June cautioned against its use as a Covid-19 treatment due to risk of heart rhythm problems and trials that found “no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death.”

Trump used the press briefing to praise the work of administration officials, including himself. He said Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn had “worked like, probably as hard or harder than anybody in this—in the group, other than maybe Mike Pence or me.”

When he spoke to me that evening, he remained fixated on the media’s coverage of his leadership during the pandemic.

“I had no symptoms, but the press was my symptom,” he said, referring to questions about whether he’d been tested for the virus.

I asked Trump about Dr. Fauci, who had become omnipresent in the lives of Americans through his media appearances since the outbreak of the virus.

“This is a war,” I said. “And in many ways, he’s your Eisenhower.” Under President Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower had been Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and planned the invasion of Normandy which led to victory in World War II.

“Well, he’s a very good guy. He’s done it before,” Trump said of Fauci. “He’s a sharp guy.”

I began to ask Trump if he ever sat down alone with Fauci to get a tutorial on the science behind the virus when the president cut in.

“Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob. This is a busy White House. We’ve got a lot of things happening. And then this came up.”

No matter how busy or what other things were happening, I frankly wondered what could be more important. Trump had carved out hours to talk with me.

“Look, we had the greatest economy on earth. The greatest economy we’ve ever had,” Trump added, overstating the strength of the U.S. economy compared to other periods in the nation’s history. It reminded me of Kushner’s notion that “controversy elevates message.”

“And in one day, this thing came in and we had a choice to make,” Trump continued. “Close everything up and save potentially millions of lives—you know, hundreds of thousands of lives—or don’t do anything and look at body bags every day being taken out of apartment buildings.”

“Who told you that?” I asked.

“It was me,” Trump said. “I told me that.”

As he led the nation through the crisis, Trump showed few signs of introspection.

“Was there a moment in all of this, last two months, where you said to yourself—you know, you’re waking up or whatever you’re doing and you say, ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?” I asked.

“No,” he answered.

“No?”

“I think it might be, but I don’t think that. All I want to do is get it solved.”

I brought up Trump’s comments at a press briefing the previous week, when he had said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the crisis.

“I don’t take responsibility for this,” Trump told me. “I have nothing to do with this. I take responsibility for solving the problem. But I don’t take responsibility for this, no. We did a good job. The Obama administration—they were obsolete tests. And in all fairness to them, nobody ever thought in terms of millions of people.”

I could find no support for Trump’s claim, repeated several times in public remarks, that the Obama administration left behind “obsolete” or “broken” tests. Obama’s National Security Council had left behind a 69-page document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” that included instructions for dealing with novel influenza viruses which “would produce an estimate of between 700,000 and 1.4 billion fatalities from a pandemic of a virulent influenza virus strain.” The document recommended officials in the early stages of such a pandemic check the nation’s diagnostic testing capacity and the amount of personal protective equipment available for health care workers.

Complaints about a lack of preparation were universal. For two years Redfield had testified before Congress that the country was not prepared for a large health crisis. When a 2018 report on the Zika virus, West Nile virus and other diseases caused by insect bites was released, Redfield said, “We don’t know what will threaten Americans next.”

Shortly before midnight on March 22, Trump tweeted in all-caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:29 am

In late March, Kushner and Pence had a meeting with the data people at FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They gave Kushner a list showing the country would need 130,000 ventilators by April 1. The message sank in. It meant possibly 130,000 people were going to die because he didn’t get them a ventilator. It meant the situation soon could mirror that in Italy, where doctors were choosing who lived and who died. In Kushner’s view people dying on hospital gurneys because they couldn’t get ventilators was not politically survivable.

Pence saw Kushner was disturbed. “Come for a ride back,” he said. So Kushner and Pence rode back to the White House together. “Jared,” Pence said, “we’ll figure it out.”

Kushner broke the news about the ventilators to Trump, who later called it the scariest day of his life and said he told the team to “move heaven and earth” to get the ventilators.

Kushner gathered White House economists and data modelers he knew from the private sector in the Roosevelt Room. They pulled Medicare and Medicaid data and went hospital by hospital, getting the highest number of ventilators the hospital had ever billed for at one time, then aggregated the numbers on a state-by-state basis. Before FEMA sent out more ventilators, Kushner said, it would need to ask how many ventilators were in the state, how many anesthesia machines had the state converted to ventilators, and what was the state’s daily utilization rate?

Kushner’s team predeployed ventilators so that every time they got to about 96 hours away from running out, they sent them another 500. New York and New Jersey came close a few times on ventilators.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo was holding daily press conferences that were getting high marks, and he loudly complained about the lack of ventilators, at one point saying New York needed 40,000 more ventilators.

Trump called Kushner. Jared, why aren’t you sending out more ventilators?

Cuomo was wrong, Kushner said. He and his team had checked by calling the New York hospitals. No one in New York was 96 hours away from needing a ventilator, Kushner said.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:31 am

On March 26, a reporter asked Trump about the language he used to describe the virus. “I talk about the Chinese virus and—and I mean it. That’s where it came from,” he said. “And this was a Chinese virus.”

Later that day, Trump and Xi spoke again by phone about the virus. At the start of the call, Trump discussed comments by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman that the virus had been brought to China by an American soldier. This is a ridiculous comment, you know, Trump said. It was tense, and they argued.

Xi pivoted to a different topic. French president Emmanuel Macron wanted to hold a meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The leaders discussed the potential meeting before the conversation moved back to the virus.

Xi said China was on the other side of its peak, and new case numbers had dropped significantly. He claimed any new cases in China were imported. Trump and Pottinger, who was listening on the call, knew this was not true at all.

Xi called the virus the common enemy and said his health minister would contact Azar, his American counterpart, to share best practices.

Trump asked Xi what was effective in fighting against the virus. What medicines and therapeutics were working for China?

Lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing were effective, Xi replied. He claimed the lockdown in Wuhan had prevented the spread of the virus to the rest of the world. Early discovery, early testing, early quarantine and early treatment were helpful, he said.

It would help, Xi added, if U.S. officials—many of whom had borrowed the “Chinese virus” phrase from Trump—adjusted their comments. He expressed concern about anti-Chinese sentiment.

Trump said that he personally and the American people loved the Chinese people and would never tolerate mistreatment of people visiting from China.

The two leaders spent the remainder of the call discussing the virus and treatments for it.

Why is the fatality rate so high in Wuhan? Trump asked.

Xi replied that it was because of the proportion of elderly people in Wuhan, and the high concentration of cases.

The call ended cordially, with Xi inviting the president and first lady to visit once the virus had passed and Trump again thanking him for the offer.

Although Xi did not make any direct threat, Pottinger thought he had suggested a cause-and-effect relationship between the tone of U.S. official statements and the degree of cooperation China would provide. He also thought it was outrageous—and part of the cover-up—that China had not provided virus samples as required by international agreement.

During the next day’s briefing, Trump alluded to his call with Xi and said, “You can call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You know, you can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody even knows what it is.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:32 am

“I’m running a big, big operation,” the president said when I reached him again by phone on Saturday morning, March 28.

The country had surpassed 2,000 deaths and officially had more reported cases than any other country. The day before, Trump had signed a $2 trillion pandemic response bill.

“The world is under siege, as you know,” he said. “I think we’re doing a good job. It’s unbelievable, though.” He sounded beleaguered. “What’s your feeling?”

“The leadership task that’s on your shoulders,” I began.

“Yeah.”

“People are going to be looking at this and trying to understand it a hundred years from now,” I said. My question for that history was, “What are your priorities?”

“There’s a lot of really fake news out,” he answered, retreating to his first talking point. He complained for a time about the media.

“The question though is what—because it’s on your shoulders,” I tried again. “What are your priorities?”

“My priorities are saving lives,” he said. “That’s my only priority.”

I reminded him he’d said that he discussed how this began with President Xi. “Did he have an answer?”

“Right,” Trump said. “Well, I did, and I discussed it. And then I said, look, it’s no longer relevant right now. We’ll talk about it after it’s all over. Because in the meantime we have to fix what’s here. But there’s no reason to get into a big argument about that now. Sometimes you just sort of say, okay, let’s talk about that sometime later. They’re very defensive, as they probably—as you would be.”

“When we talked in February, you said there’s dynamite behind every door,” I said. “And this is before all of this accelerated. And I wonder if at that point did you have any inkling or intelligence that my God, we’ve got this storm coming?”

“Well nobody knew that a thing like this could happen,” Trump said. “The best decision I made was Europe and China, closing our doors. We would’ve had a much bigger problem, like many times bigger than we had. We would’ve had unbelievable amounts of death.”

“Fauci is predicting we may have 100,000 deaths in this country,” I said.

“It could happen,” he said. “And if we didn’t do what I’m doing, you would’ve had a number many times that. Can you believe that?”

“How’s Xi’s mood?” I asked. “Because they’ve been clobbered also.”

“They’ve been clobbered far worse than you read,” the president said.

“I understand that it shows in North Korea they’re being clobbered also.” North Korea had publicly claimed it didn’t have a single case of the virus.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said. “We haven’t had a war,” he reminded me. “Okay? And then you have something like this. And this stops wars, because they’ve got their own war now.”

“Somebody told me that the virus is just blazing through North Korea,” I said.

“Yeah. A big problem. Iran is an unbelievable problem.”

China had blamed American soldiers for bringing in the virus. Trump said he told President Xi, “Look, you can’t do that. And you know, we had a little bit of an argument.”

I understood that Trump’s decision to publicly call coronavirus the “Chinese virus” had led some White House staffers to feel emboldened to criticize China even harder. Trump was worried because he knew words could cause wars. He had told them, “You can’t do that shit,” and stopped them fast.

The scale of the problem had clearly sunk in. Trump almost sounded like a different person.
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