By: Gayathri Loka
March 26 2021
U.S. intelligence reportedly warned Trump about the existence of the virus in November 2019, and then about its spread in January and February 2020.
U.S. intelligence reportedly warned Trump about the existence of the virus in November 2019, and then about its spread in January and February 2020. Information about COVID-19 was given to former President Donald Trump in a November intelligence report by the military's National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI). "It was then briefed multiple times to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and the White House. Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," ABC News reported. From that warning in November, ABC News reported that there were repeated briefings through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House. By the end of January 2020 and the beginning of February 2020, the majority of the intelligence reports in Trump's daily briefings contained information about the coronavirus. The first intelligence briefing to Trump was on January 23, 2020, as reported by many American media outlets. According to a report by Bloomberg, during the briefing on January 23, Trump was told the virus was to spread globally from China and that becoming infected wouldn’t be deadly for most people. By January 28, 2020, intelligence had briefed Trump that the virus was spreading outside of China but that all deaths remained inside that country. As late as February 19, 2020, Trump was offering positive reviews for how China’s leaders had handled the coronavirus. "I'm confident that they're trying very hard," Trump told an interviewer from Fox 10. On February 26, 2020, the president insisted publicly that the number of cases "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero" and said the next day that "it's like a miracle, it will disappear." Around the same time, the virus was spreading swiftly across the United States, especially in heavily populated areas like New York City. Governors began to impose lockdowns in their respective states. In March 2020, Politico reported that the administration declined to use a nearly 70-page pandemic playbook that the National Security Council's health unit put together under the Obama administration. The document instructed federal officials on how to prepare for many of the same obstacles the Trump administration was facing, including medical equipment shortages and a lack of coordination. In April 2020, the Washington Post reported that for weeks, U.S. intelligence sent in their reports and briefings saying that they traced the virus’s spread around the globe. It was made clear that China suppressed information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences. According to a report by Business Standard, by April 27, 2020, more than 55,000 people in the United States had died of COVID-19. In May 2020, NPR questioned what Trump knew about the coronavirus and whether he was aware of it. The administration faced criticism about its slow response to early warnings about the virus. Since Trump's January 2020 briefings, the U.S. has reported more than 1.1 million cases of the coronavirus — more than any other nation. Trump didn’t announce federal social distancing recommendations until March 16. Furthermore, Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious, and “more deadly than even your strenuous flu,” and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to journalist Bob Woodward in his new book "Rage." “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said on March 19, according to CNN, which obtained an audio recording of the interview between Trump and Woodward. The Washington Post also accessed the interview where Trump said, “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.” The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.