White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says he would not have advised President Donald Trump to grant interviews earlier this year with writer Bob Woodward, whose latest book claims Trump told him he downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus so as not to create panic.
"I'm not surprised that the president was on the phone with Bob Woodward," Meadows told Fox News on Wednesday. "His access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the chief of staff role early on, but it's the typical thing the president does. He believes he has nothing to hide. That is the great thing about him."
The comments from Meadows, who resigned his North Carolina congressional seat in March to become chief of staff, came following The Washington Post's report that Woodward spoke to Trump 18 times between December and July. Woodward's book "Rage" is due out next week.
According to excerpts, Trump called the virus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, "deadly stuff" in early February while publicly likening it to the seasonal flu. A month later, he told Woodward he was minimizing the threat because he "didn't want to create a panic."
Meadows agreed avoiding panic was a prudent goal.
"But at the same time, it was an all-hands-on-deck [situation]," Meadows said. "Not only did that happen in January and February, but when I came on board in March, it was an around-the-clock vigilant effort to make sure that this president did everything he could to address it.
"I can also say that what we know now about the virus is very different than what we knew at the time."
Meadows said Trump followed the medical experts' recommendations.
"He literally shut down the economy on the advice of doctors to try to make sure we mitigated the damage, and yet, he's been one of the most transparent presidents as it came to dealing with this situation — whether it's on a phone call with Woodward or with anybody else," Meadows said.
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