The Slatest

Intelligence Agencies Repeatedly Warned Trump of a Likely Pandemic. He Ignored Them.

President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, react to a question during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 21, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, react to a question during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 21, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

U.S. intelligence agencies did not mince words. Throughout January and February they repeatedly warned President Donald Trump and other top administration officials about the growing danger of the coronavirus and how it could quickly spread around the world, reports the Washington Post. Starting in January, Trump began receiving reports warning that Chinese authorities appeared to be downplaying the severity of the virus amid information of how covid-19 appeared to be spreading rapidly.

The reports never predicted when the virus might hit the United States nor did they recommend things the administration should do to prepare but when looked at as a whole, they made it clear that the virus was possibly heading to become a global pandemic. Despite these warnings though, Trump continually played down the severity of the virus and officials struggled to get him to focus on the issue. “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” an official said. “The system was blinking red.” Case in point, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was finally able to get Trump to speak to him about the virus, the president interrupted him to ask about vaping.

Hillary Clinton tweeted out a link to the article, accusing the Trump administration of failing to act “for fear of spooking the markets,” which led to “losing weeks of time to prepare that we won’t get back.”

Trump went on the offensive against the Post when he was asked about the story during a news conference Saturday. “I think the Washington Post covers us very inaccurately, covers me very inaccurately,” Trump told reporters. “I saw the story. I think it’s a disgrace but it’s the Washington Post and I guess we have to live with it. It’s a very inaccurate…” When a journalist tried to interject, Trump said: “Quiet, quiet.” Trump went on to condemn China for expelling journalists for U.S. media outlets but he added that “I also think it’s terrible when people write inaccurately about you and they write inaccurately about me every single day, every single hour.”