President Trump went into friendlier territory Wednesday night—Sean Hannity's show on Fox News—to defend his interviews with Bob Woodward. On the show, he repeated his rationale for deliberately downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus threat. "I'm the leader of the country, I can't be jumping up and down and scaring people," Trump told Hannity. "I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic, and that's exactly what I did." More:
- Slamming Woodward: "He does hit jobs with everybody, he even did it on Obama ... constant hit jobs," Trump said of the journalist. "On [George W.] Bush, I guess, they did three books, they were all terrible. So I figured, you know, 'Let's give it a little shot, I'll speak to him.' It wasn't a big deal, I speak to him and let's see." Trump ended up speaking with Woodward 18 times, notes CNN.
- A question: On Twitter Thursday, Trump posed this question: "Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!" Trump reiterated the point at an afternoon news conference and blasted as "disgraceful" a reporter who began a question on the topic with, "Why did you lie ..." (Others have made the same point about Woodward, who has been defending his decision not to publish earlier.)
- Charm offensive: White House aides warned Trump about speaking with Woodward, but the president believed "he could charm" the journalist, reports Politico. Now aides are blaming each other for the fallout. Tucker Carlson of Fox says he thinks GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is the one most responsible for talking Trump into the interviews, reports Newsweek. Graham "is supposed to be a Republican, so why would he do something like that?" asked Carlson on his show Wednesday. "You would have to ask him. But keep in mind that Lindsey Graham has opposed—passionately opposed—virtually every major policy initiative that Donald Trump articulated when he first ran."
- Another line: While Trump's comments on COVID-19 were drawing much of the attention, CBS News calls attention to another topic. Woodward noted that both he and Trump were "white, privileged" people, and he asked the president if "we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country." Trump's response: "No. You, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don't feel that at all."
- In defense: Trump got some backup Thursday on Fox & Friends in regard to the coronavirus controversy, reports Mediaite. Presidents get "scary intel" every day, said Steve Doocy. "Well, he doesn't, you know, blurt out 'Somebody is trying to blow up Akron' or something like that. Instead, as he said, he didn't want people to freak out, so he tried to keep people calm."
- Bernstein's take: Woodward's famous former reporting partner, Carl Bernstein, says he thinks the COVID revelations are more serious than Watergate and amount to "homicidal negligence," per Business Insider.
- Not reading it: Trump says he doesn't know if the book resulting from all this, Rage, is good or bad and doesn't intend to find out for himself. "Probably—almost definitely won't read it because I don't have time to read it," he told Hannity, per the Hill. "But I gave it a little bit of a shot. Sounds like it's not going to be good."
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