Administration

Trump says he didn't see Navarro memos but wouldn't have changed course if he had

President Trump on Tuesday said he had not seen memos from one of his top trade advisers warning in January of the consequences of a potential pandemic but denied he would have acted differently if he had.

The president was asked at a coronavirus press briefing about memos from Peter Navarro in which the trade adviser outlined the economic and public health problems that could arise if the virus spread from mainland China.

The memo was circulated in late January, the same time Trump was insisting the issue was "under control."

"I don't think it would've changed it, because I basically did what the memo said," Trump said, referring to his decision at the end of January to restrict travel from China.

Trump said he read about the memos, which were published by Axios late Monday night, "maybe a day ago."

He praised Navarro and asserted the two had "the same instincts" on the issue.

"It was a feeling that he had. I think he told certain people on the staff," Trump said. "I didn't see it."

Navarro advocated in a memo to the National Security Council dated Jan. 29 for an immediate travel ban on China. The same day the first memo was sent, Trump formed the White House coronavirus task force.

In a subsequent memo a few days later, Navarro warned that a full-blown pandemic could kill up to 2 million Americans. He called for at least $3 billion to be appropriated to support efforts at prevention, treatment, inoculation and diagnostics, Axios reported. 

While Trump curbed travel from China at the end of January, he continued to downplay the virus into February. He said at various points that month that the virus would dissipate in April with warmer weather and that the number of cases would soon drop to "close to zero."

Trump defended his rosy tone at the time, telling reporters on Tuesday that he believes it's his role as president to be a "cheerleader."

"I'm a cheerleader for this country," he said. "I don't want to create havoc and shock and everything else."

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