‘I was in the White House a couple of days ago, meeting with 10 people in the Oval Office and a guy sneezed innocently, not a horrible, you know, just a sneeze,’ Trump is heard telling Woodward in a tape dated April 13. ‘The entire room bailed out, OK, including me, by the way.’
The timing is significant because the conversation happened the same day Trump declared that he had ‘the ultimate authority’ to push states to reopen their economies, which he was pressing them to do.
‘Rage’ author Bob Woodward debuted another tape from his 18 interviews with President Donald Trump. Trump is heard saying he ‘bailed out’ of the Oval Office after someone sneezed because the coronavirus was so contagious
Woodward (right) debuted the new sound clip Monday night on the ‘Late Show’ with comedian Stephen Colbert (left). Woodward wondered how Trump could hold packed rallies this week knowing what he knew months earlier about the seriousness of COVID-19
The conversation between Woodward (left) and Trump (right) came on April 13, a day that Trump boasted that he had the ‘ultimate authority’ to order states to reopen their economies, which he was publicly supportive of them doing
At the April 13 briefing, Trump was challenged several times about what authority he had to make states reopen their economies. He later backpedaled, but on that day he insisted, ‘They want to open. They have to open. They have to get open’
The famed Watergate journalist debuted the new audio clip from one of his 18 interviews with Trump on Monday night on the ‘Late Show’ with host Stephen Colbert.
Trump is first heard remarking to Woodward just how contagious the coronavirus is.
‘And Bob. It’s so easily transmissible you wouldn’t believe it,’ the president says.
Speaking about the clip to the comedian, Woodward takes what Trump knew then and ponders how he could hold packed rallies this week.
‘Last night in Nevada when he was going through that rally, I mean God knows how many people there, all packed together,’ Woodward said. ‘I wonder if someone sneezed in the front row that Trump would bail out again and get out of the way?’ the journalist mused.
The president held his first indoor rally in Nevada Sunday night since the disastrous June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain attended before contracting the coronavirus and dying.
‘Anyway, this is too serious a matter,’ Woodward said.
He goes on to bring up Trump’s January 28 meeting with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and his deputy Matt Pottinger, which Woodward unearthed in his reporting for the book.
Woodward called it ‘maybe one of the most extraordinary meetings in the Oval Office I reported on for about 50 years.’
‘And that is when his national security adviser tells him that the virus is going to be the biggest national security threat to your presidency and then the deputy, Matt Pottinger, who had worked in China for seven years for The Wall Street Journal gives specifics about how dangerous this is, how easy it is to be transmitted,’ Woodward continued.
Woodward said a president’s job – and Trump attested to this – was to ‘protect the people.’
‘He failed to protect the people,’ Woodward said. ‘He failed to find the way to tell the truth.’
During the April 13 press briefing, Trump was challenged several times on what authority he had to make states reopen.
When asked by a reporter about the 10th Amendment, which gives all powers that don’t reside in the president or Congress to the states, Trump suggested that state officials reluctant to reopen simply wouldn’t be re-elected.
‘Well, if some states refuse to open, I would be – I would like to see that person run for election. They’re going to open. They’re going to all open,’ Trump said. ‘They want to open. They have to open. They have to get open.’
The president later backpedaled on his claim to have authority.
Trump also said guidance on how to reopen would be forthcoming.
‘My administration’s plan and corresponding guidelines will give the American people the confidence they need to begin returning to normal life,’ he said on April 13. ‘That’s what we want. We want to have our country open. We want to return to normal life. Our country is going to be open, and it’s going to be successfully opened.’
Four days later, Trump famously pushed Democratic governors to reopen their states by tweeting ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN,’ as well as Virginia and Minnesota, siding with anti-shutdown protesters who were showing up to state capitols to complain about businesses being closed.