10:45 GMT21 September 2020
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    Bob Woodward, the famed Washington Post journalist who reported on the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, was one of the first to publish a tell-all book on the Trump White House, with books of this type turning into an entire cottage industry and raking in hundreds of millions of dollars for authors and publishers.

    US President Donald Trump willingly sought to downplay the dangers posed by the coronavirus, and told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward about it, multiple US outlets reported on Wednesday, citing written excerpts and an audio clip associated with Woodward’s new book, ‘Rage’.

    “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump reportedly told the veteran journalist, with CNN publishing alleged audio of one of the president’s conversations with Woodward.

    “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,” Trump reportedly added in a conversation dated March 19.

    According to a Washington Post account of Woodward’s book, Trump had been informed in January by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that COVID-19 would be “the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”

    In a separate reported phone call with Woodward in early February, Trump reportedly said he realized that coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu,” and described new information on the disease as “a little bit of an interesting setback with the virus going in China.”

    White House Denies Playing Down Threat

    White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany commented on the reports in a press briefing later Wednesday, saying that the president "has never lied to the American public on Covid," and adding that he may have downplayed the severity of the crisis because he didn't "want to see chaos."

    "This president, at a time when you're facing insurmountable challenges, it's important to express confidence, it's important to express calm," she said in a heated exchange with a journalist on the issue.

    ‘Rage’ will hit store shelves on September 15, and among other things, promises to reveal juicy details about Trump’s personal correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and his handling of the major crises of 2020, including coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests. The book follows Woodward’s previous book on the Trump White House, entitled ‘Fear’, with that book revealing alleged White House plots to sabotage Trump’s directives, the president’s alleged ‘anxiety’ about the Russiagate investigation (which turned up empty in April 2019 with the release of the Mueller report), and other information. ‘Fear’ sold 1.1 million copies in the first week of its release, becoming a New York Times bestseller.

    Trump Book Boom

    Woodward is one of dozens of journalists, former officials and political personalities to write books about Trump in recent years, with NYT recently estimating that over 1,200 unique titles about the president have been written over the past four years, compared to just 500 about his predecessor, Barack Obama, during his first term.

    Woodward's book follows the release of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen's tell-all memoir earlier this week. Before that, Trump's niece, Mary Trump, released her own book filled with anecdotes about what it was like to grow up in the Trump family. In June, former National Security Advisor John Bolton saw his book, 'The Room Where It Happened', published, with that memoir detailing the hawkish advisor's recollection of his work with Trump on US foreign policy matters.

    Since being classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, the coronavirus crisis has pushed some countries’ health care systems to breaking point as capacity was diverted from treating other illnesses, and has caused a major economic downturn across most of the globe, sparking an associated rise in suicides, depression, and other problems.

    According to estimates compiled by Johns Hopkins University, nearly 900,000 people have died from coronavirus-related complications, with over 27.6 million cases reported to date globally, accounting for 0.003 percent of the world’s population. The US has reported an estimated 190,000 deaths.

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