President Donald Trump was repeatedly made aware of the threat the coronavirus posed to the U.S. in his Daily Brief back in January, The Washington Post reports.
Current and former U.S. officials told the newspaper that the president continued to downplay the threat when he was warned during more than a dozen classified briefings on the virus.
The President’s Daily Brief is a daily report that brings to the president’s attention any security threats and important global news. In January and February, officials said, the report focused on the spread of the virus, called out China for suppressing information, and discussed the death toll the virus could cause and possible economic fallout.
Officials told The Washington Post that Trump routinely skips reading the President’s Daily Brief and often is impatient for the oral summary he receives just two or three times per week.
It is unclear how many times the coronavirus was mentioned in the briefings, but officials said that it received similar attention to when intelligence is tracking active terrorism threats or other global security issues.
ABC News reports another intelligence report issued by the military's National Center for Medical Intelligence warned of the virus back in November.
"Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," one of the sources told ABC of the NCMI’s report.
"It was then briefed multiple times to" the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House, according to ABC. The Pentagon denied the report existed.
The first mention of the coronavirus in the Daily Brief was in early January and focused on Wuhan, China. Early intelligence did not mention the possibility of a severe outbreak in the U.S.
One official said that by mid-to-late January, the coronavirus was being mentioned more frequently and it is likely included in the oral “executive update” given to the president. Details of the briefings are also relayed to Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking officials.
Some public health officials say the early warning signals would have been a way to contain the outbreak, but Trump delayed taking action.
A White House spokesman disagreed that the president was slow to respond to the pandemic.
“President Trump rose to fight this crisis head-on by taking early, aggressive historic action to protect the health, wealth and well-being of the American people,” spokesman Hogan Gidley told The Washington Post. “We will get through this difficult time and defeat this virus because of his decisive leadership.”
Trump's first major action in combating the virus was his decision to restrict travel between the U.S. and China in late January.
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