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Trump campaign senior adviser says president is 'not at all' downplaying the severity of the pandemic

Jason Miller, the senior adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s campaign, said Sunday that Trump is “not at all” currently downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic after the president told journalist Bob Woodward he was in February. 

“I think the president is accurately saying that Americans are starting to safely and responsibly reopen all around the country,” Miller told ABC’s “This Week,” adding that Americans “want life to return to normal.”

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The senior adviser’s comments come after interviews between Trump and Woodward were released last week in which the president said he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus pandemic in public to avoid a panic, despite being aware the novel coronavirus was “more deadly” than the flu. Woodward conducted the interviews for his new book “Rage” set to be released this week.  

Miller emphasized on “This Week” that the “key differential” between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE is that Biden “wants everyone to stay locked in their basement forever” during the pandemic.

“President Trump wants to be safe, responsible, get us back open,” Miller added.  

ABC’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Top aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Chris Christie: Trump's legal team has been 'a national embarrassment' MORE pressed Miller on “what evidence” he has that Biden “wants people to stay locked in their basements forever.”

“Well, very simply, when he was asked if he would shut down the economy in January, he said yes,” Miller responded. “He said: If the experts [approve,] then I will.”

“What we need is to safely and responsibly move forward and developing this vaccine is absolutely critical,” he said, criticizing Biden’s campaign for “casting doubt over a vaccine when … it’s going to be driven by the experts.” 

Stephanopoulos pointed out that Biden said he’d take the coronavirus vaccine if the experts declared it safe. 

Symone SandersSymone SandersSunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight Sunday shows - Biden win reverberates Biden adviser says White House has not reached out to president-elect MORE, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, told "This Week" that Miller's claim about Biden wanting himself and others to stay in their basements "isn't true."

Critics of the Trump administration have long claimed that the president has downplayed the pandemic by comparing it to the seasonal flu and saying it will disappear, which they say resulted in more coronavirus cases and deaths in the country. 

The U.S. has confirmed more than 6.4 million COVID-19 cases and 193,705 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

--Updated at 10:47 a.m.