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Trump wanted to downplay ‘deadly’ virus, Woodward book says

President Donald Trump knew Covid-19 was deadlier than the flu before it hit the US but wanted to play down the crisis, according to a new book.

Bob Woodward, the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal, interviewed Mr Trump 18 times from December to July.

Mr Trump told him the virus was "deadly stuff" before the first US death was confirmed, later adding he wanted to "play it down" to avoid causing panic.

The president has previously called the book a "fake".

Mr Trump tweeted in August: "The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been."

He also called the storied reporter a "social pretender", "who never has anything good to say".

On Wednesday, some US media released parts of the interviews between the president and the journalist, revealing his reported remarks on the pandemic as well as race and other issues.

Here are some of the key quotes so far from Rage, which will be released on 15 September.

On the virus

In interviews with Woodward, Mr Trump indicated that he knew more about the severity of the illness than he had said publicly.

According to a tape of the call, Mr Trump told Woodward in February that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu.

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"This is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent. You know? So, this is deadly stuff."

Later that month, Mr Trump promised the virus was "very much under control", and that the case count would soon be close to zero. He also implied the flu was more dangerous than Covid-19.

Speaking on Capitol Hill on 10 March, Mr Trump said: "Just stay calm. It will go away."

Nine days later, days after the White House declared the pandemic a national emergency, the president told Woodward: "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

Responding to reporters' questions on the book on Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had always been "clear-eyed" about the crisis.

"The president never downplayed the virus, once again," she said.

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