The Washington Post released audio of the comments Wednesday as part of a story previewing Woodward’s new book “Rage.” Trump, when asked at the White House later that day if he had misled the public to avoid panic, conceded he did.
“I think if you said ‘in order to reduce panic,’ perhaps that’s so,” he said. “The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say.”
Democrats seized on the revelation, saying it was further evidence that the president didn’t do enough, especially in the early months, to combat the virus. Senate Republicans largely dodged questions about Woodward’s reporting, although several defended Trump’s handling of COVID-19.
“I’m more concerned about the actions that were actually taken to address the crisis,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters. “And I believe that the White House has worked with the Congress … to get assistance out there, which is why I think the economy is performing better and you’re seeing a lot of the progress that we are seeing here.”
‘It takes away …’
Regardless of the interpretation of Trump’s comments, it was another reminder of the influence the president and his rhetoric has over the news cycle. Congress has always struggled to communicate to voters what it’s doing but never more so than during the Trump era. Both Republicans and Democrats readily admit his comments can be a distraction from the policy Washington is debating.