Democrats request probe of Barr's remarks on firing of intelligence community IG
Intel reports going back to January warned of coronavirus threat
The intelligence community was warning of the danger posed by the novel coronavirus throughout January and February as the White House downplayed the threat and was slow to roll out nationwide measures, reports show.
U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting told The Washington Post that the reports did not clarify when the virus might spread in the U.S. or recommend specific steps to prevent an outbreak, but they did track the international spread of the coronavirus and warn that China was initially dismissing the seriousness of what is now a pandemic.
While President Trump did take early action to close the border to any travelers from China, where the coronavirus first appeared, the White House was slow to make test kits available and ceded much of the response to state governments.
Intelligence agencies "have been warning on this since January," a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting told the Post. "Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were - they just couldn't get him to do anything about it."
The White House has defended the president's response, dismissing claims that the administration was caught flat-footed and insisting that Trump took early and significant action.
"President Trump has taken historic, aggressive measures to protect the health, wealth and safety of the American people - and did so while the media and Democrats chose to only focus on the stupid politics of a sham illegitimate impeachment," Hogan Gidley said in a statement to the Post. "It's more than disgusting, despicable and disgraceful for cowardly unnamed sources to attempt to rewrite history - it's a clear threat to this great country."