President Donald Trump told Bob Woodward, during interviews for his book "Rage", that he gets along better with the "tougher and meaner" world leaders such as Turkey's President Recep Erdogan rather than the "easy" heads of state.
"I get along very well with Erdogan, even though you're not supposed to because everyone says what a frightful guy, but for me it works out good", Trump says on the tape, played exclusively on TODAY.
"Forty million people watched it", Woodward said of Trump's State of the Union address. That's always tougher than the touch. No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. And so that's a very tricky one. Then, when it exploded in March - as you know, there were 30,000 new cases a day - publishing something at that point would not have been telling people anything they didn't know. "You know, so, this is deadly stuff".
"The easy ones are the ones I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much", Trump says.
During a press conference on September 9, the president responded to questions about playing down the virus, telling reporters he was trying to avoid "panic".
Woodward believes Trump's misrepresentation of the coronavirus to the public was a mistake and a failure on the part of the president.
"We know from history when the public is told the truth, they organize". Woodward said. "The key here, Savannah, is that in May, three months later, I learned they key piece of evidence that on January 28 - 10 before that February call, the president was warned by his national security advisor, in a top secret meeting, that the virus is going to be the gravest national security threat to your presidency". In the clip, Pelley asks, "Did the president ever disclose to you why he wasn't telling the public what the stakes where with the coronavirus?"
"I think I have public health public safety responsibility". We have a problem, we're going to step up. Trump did those interviews despite his aides advising him against it - he believed he could "charm" Woodward, multiple reports said.
Woodward, who spoke with Trump 18 times from December to July for his book, faced backlash on social media for not reporting on the President's private COVID-19 concerns sooner as the country records more than 190,000 fatalities from the infectious disease.
"Nothing more could have been done. But there was no indication in February, in March everyone knew what Trump had told me, that it applied to the United Sates".