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Trump officials defend president's coronavirus response amid Woodward revelations

Trump officials defend president's coronavirus response amid Woodward revelations
© Getty Images/Simon and Schuster

Trump administration and campaign officials defended the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic after the revelation that he told Bob Woodward he was deliberately downplaying the threat of the virus in March.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro defended the administration in a heated interview with CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperJake Tapper jokes he's retained Giuliani to look into fraud in 'Sexiest Man' election Brennan takes final shot at Trump: 'I leave his fate to our judicial system, his infamy to history, & his legacy to a trash heap' Biden transition adviser: Legal action for ascertainment of win 'isn't our preference' MORE, pointing to the president’s ban on some travel from China as part of its initial response.

“Why wasn’t the president straightforward with the American people?” Tapper asked Navarro, prompting Navarro to accuse Tapper of “cherry-picking.” Navarro defended the president and pivoted toward the notion that “CNN is not honest with the American people.”

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Trump said last week that “perhaps” he misled Americans to prevent panic about the virus.

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller also defended Trump’s response to the virus, saying the campaign is not currently downplaying its severity.

“I think the president is accurately saying that Americans are starting to safely and responsibly reopen all around the country,” Miller said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Miller went on to accuse Democratic 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 of “want[ing] everyone to stay locked in their basement forever.”

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 asked Miller the basis for the claim, to which Miller responded “Well, very simply, when he was asked if he would shut down the economy in January, he said yes. 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,” Miller said, accusing the Biden campaign of “casting doubt over a vaccine when … it’s going to be driven by the experts.”

Stephanopoulos noted that Biden has said he will accept a vaccine that experts deem safe.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielMichigan certifies Biden victory in another blow to Trump Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday GOP chairwoman leans into election claims: Party will 'run down every single irregularity' MORE said Trump had been relying on advice from experts in addressing the pandemic, including when he cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks.

“I think 20/20 vision in hindsight is always perfect, but as a new pandemic hit our shores we were all being told by Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists, that we shouldn’t wear masks,” McDaniel said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s a new virus … to say that he should have known then what we know now isn’t really fair.”

Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes, meanwhile, blamed the “corporate media” for “pushing out a myth that the president mishandled the virus” on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cortes said the president's remarks comparing the virus to the seasonal flu was similar to “the fog of war.”

Fox News’ Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceBiden adviser: 'He does not have any concern' about Trump lawsuits Public health expert: Americans no longer acting 'with common purpose' on pandemic Anti-Defamation League criticizes White House appointee 'who has consorted with racists' MORE pushed back on the characterization, saying “[Trump]’s national security adviser, Robert O'BrienRobert O'BrienO'Brien announces delivery of missiles, bombs to Philippines Huawei threat 'No. 1 concern' moving forward, Trump national security adviser says China, 14 other Asian nations sign regional trade deal MORE, said, this is the biggest challenge you are going to face and your entire presidency. And the deputy national security advisor, Matthew Pottinger, immediately compared it to the Spanish flu, the deadly Spanish flu of 100 years ago.”

“[T]here was no fog of war there. If the word he was getting from his top intelligence and national security people was that this was a deadly pandemic. There was no fog here,” Wallace added.

“Your explanation is somewhat different from the president, because you’re saying, well, the president didn't really know, it was the fog of war,” Wallace responded. “But when he has described it, he said he didn't want to panic the country, he didn't want to jump up and down and panic the country.”

Cortes countered that Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge US COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's MORE had said in late February that Americans should not change their lifestyles in response to the virus.