With 191,000 Americans dead, Trump admits in bombshell tapes he knew COVID-19 was deadly but deliberately downplayed it in public while blaming WHO and China for concealing the threat

Nearly 191,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, even as President Donald Trump admitted in bombshell tapes made public on Wednesday that he knew as far back as January and February that COVID-19 was deadly but he deliberately downplayed it while he was blaming the World Health Organization and China for hiding the seriousness of the threat from him.

The shocking admission in Mr. Trump’s own words and own voice came only 55 days to the presidential election on November 3, 2020.

It also came just days after the United States Department of State continued to justify in a statement, Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the WHO on the basis that it did not give him the correct information about the virus, an accusation the WHO has repeatedly rejected with the timeline of its response to the pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on updates regarding on the novel coronavirus COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP) 
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on updates regarding on the novel coronavirus COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

Mr. Trump’s baffling revelation that he knew all along and early enough that the coronavirus pandemic was deadly but hid it from the public was made to the Watergate journalist Bob Woodward for his book “Rage” to be released on Thursday.

Mr. Trump had 18 taped interviews with Mr. Woodward for many months as early as February 7.

In the book, Woodward says Mr. Trump revealed that President Xi Jinping of China told him the virus was airborne and was highly transmissible.

“It goes through the air,” Trump said of COVID-19 on Feb. 7 when asked about his conversation with President Xi Jinping, according to audio released by Woodward to CNN.

President Xi Jinping of China: Photo - Michel Temer 
President Xi Jinping of China: Photo – Michel Temer

“That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breath the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” Trump added in the February 7 recordings.

In a subsequent interview with Woodward, Trump admitted that he was playing down the virus in public because he did not want to create panic.

“I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward in a recording released by the veteran Washington Post journalist.

But, he did not just downplay it with words, he did not also prepare the country to take the proper steps and acquire the necessary PPEs and test on time.

Even as the virus was accelerating dangerously, Mr. Trump continued to downplay it, calling it a hoax, saying it would soon disappear, advising people not to be bothered by something that was just like the common flu.

As weeks turned into months, and many Americans began to die, Trump began to shift the blame to China and the WHO. He tagged it the “China virus” and labeled the WHO “China-centric”.

Eventually, he pulled the United States from the WHO, arguing that the organization was pro-China, and had mishandled the response to the pandemic.

He alleged the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and his colleagues had not disclosed vital information about the virus to the United States.

The Woodward tapes have finally put a lie to that blame game, and revealed that Mr. Trump was aware of the danger posed by the virus but he deliberately failed to act.

Mr. Trump’s opponent in the coming presidential election Joe Biden called Mr. the President’s admission “a dereliction of duty”.

He said Trump failed to protect Americans and is not fit to be President.

The book could not have come at a worst time for Trump. The number of coronavirus deaths has continued to escalate.

The latest data from Johns Hopkins University show that an average of 900 Americans have been dying from COVID-19 every day in the past two weeks, even as Trump continues to claim he’s had the best response to the pandemic in the world.

The data also show that since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States 230 days ago on January 21, 2020, more than 6.3 million Americans have contracted the virus.

Worse, President Trump has continued to hold rallies with no social distancing measures and without his supporters wearing face masks.

This is taking place at a time health experts continue to warn that more Americans could die in the fall when coronavirus and common flu hit the country at the same time.

The United States has the worst death rate and highest number of infections in the world, the result of a bungled response by Donald Trump, who for months, described the virus as a hoax, undermined health experts, rejected wearing of masks, held big gatherings with no social distancing and no masks, like the one he held at the White House during the RNC convention last month.

Mr. Trump’s opponent in the November presidential election, Joe Biden, has taken a different approach. He’s wearing a mask, social distancing, recommending wearing of face masks to others, social distancing measures and listening to science.

Biden has also accused Trump of giving up on the U.S.’s efforts to control the disease’s spread, saying that the president “raised the white flag.”

“He has no idea what to do. It’s zero. It’s only one thing he has in mind – how does he win reelection? And it doesn’t matter how many people get COVID and or die from COVID because he fears that if the economy is strapped as badly as it is today that, in fact, he is going to be in trouble,” the former vice president told MSNBC.

Biden and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris have both said they would listen to science if elected to defeat the greatest health crisis America has faced in more than 100 years.

In a recent Axios interview, President Trump claimed the virus was “under control as much as you can control it” in the U.S. “They are dying, that’s true. And you have – it is what it is,” Trump said earlier in August. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague.”

The World Health Organization said last week that during the 1918 flu pandemic, more people in the United States died during the second and the third wave.

Mr. Trump has failed to come to an agreement with Democrats over a new coronavirus relief bill that could help the country get ready before fall as well as mitigate pains for the unemployed. The result may be catastrophic in just a few months.

Even if Mr. Trump loses in November as the latest polls suggest, Joe Biden would inherit a country deeply in crisis, with a health crisis still raging, an economy in great recession and high unemployment numbers.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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