Weeks before the first confirmed coronavirus death in the U.S., Donald Trump admitted that he knew COVID-19 was a serious threat, despite his attempts to "play it down" in public.

CNN ran a bombshell story on Wednesday, featuring excerpts from journalist Bob Woodward's explosive new book Rage, along with recordings of Woodward's interviews with Trump that were conducted for the book.

In the interviews, Trump acknowledges that the virus is "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," a stark contrast to multiple public statements he made in which he downplayed the severity of the virus. "This is deadly stuff," he told Woodward on Feb. 7. As pointed out by CNN's Daniel Dale, Trump told Americans on Feb. 26 that the virus was "like a flu." 

When Woodward spoke with Trump on March 19, he told him that his goal with the virus was to "always play it down" to the public. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he said. In their final interview together in July, Trump said, "The virus has nothing to do with me. It's not my fault. It's—China let the damn virus out." You can listen to Trump admitting his attempt to downplay the virus below.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly said that the virus will simply "go away" after some time. So far, there's been a reported 6.35 million confirmed cases and 190k deaths in the United States. 

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany denied that the president willfully misled the American people.

In the hours following CNN's story, people across social media, including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, condemned the president for essentially lying to the American public about the severity of the virus. 

The book also includes other revelations about Trump's tumultuous presidency, including a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci that called his Trump's leadership "rudderless."

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