U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about the threat from the new coronavirus received widespread attention after parts of a new book were released this week.
The passages are from “Rage,” written by Bob Woodward. The book will be available for purchase online and in stores next week.
The book also tells about Trump’s relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a mysterious new weapon.
“Rage” is based on 18 interviews that Woodward had with the president between December 2019 and July of this year. Trump’s comments have been reported on CNN and in The Washington Post, where Woodward and Carl Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigative reporting.
The new coronavirus
In a February 7 telephone call, Trump spoke with Woodward about the coronavirus. The president was reported as saying, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.”
At the same time, Trump was telling Americans that the virus was not worse than influenza and that the government had it under control.
On March 19, the president again spoke with Woodward about the coronavirus. He reportedly said “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
On Wednesday, Trump defended his comments in a meeting with reporters at the White House. He told them, “So the fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened.”
Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden will face Trump in the November 3 presidential election. He called Trump’s actions “a life and death betrayal of the American people.”
Woodward wrote that Trump said he was impressed with Kim Jong Un when he first met the North Korean leader in Singapore in 2018. Trump reportedly said that Kim “tells me everything” and even told the president how he had his uncle, a North Korean official, killed in 2013.
The former Washington Post reporter said he received copies of 25 letters exchanged between Trump and Kim. The U.S. leader was said to have called them “love letters.”
Woodward wrote they show a relationship that moved from Trump calling Kim a "Little Rocket Man" to becoming the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader.
After their meeting in Singapore, Kim wrote to Trump on December 25, 2018. The message said "Even now I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency's hand at the beautiful and sacred location as the whole world watched with great interest and hope to relive the honor of that day.”
Trump wrote back to Kim on December 28. His message read, "Like you, I have no doubt that a great result will be accomplished between our two countries, and that the only two leaders who can do it are you and me."
The two men met a second time in Vietnam’s capital in February 2019 without reaching an agreement. Trump told Woodward that when Kim refused to give up his nuclear weapons, Trump tried another method.
"Do you ever do anything other than send rockets up to the air?" Trump asked Kim. "Let's go to a movie together. Let's go play a round of golf."
The president dismissed criticism about his three meetings with Kim, saying they were no big deal. Critics said that by meeting Kim, Trump provided the North Korean leader with legitimacy.
“It takes me two days. I met. I gave up nothing,” said the president. He compared North Korea’s desire to keep its nuclear weapons to somebody who is in love with a house and “they just can’t sell it.”
In discussions with Woodward about tensions between the U.S. and North Korea in 2017, Trump said: “I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese President Jinping) Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody — what we have is incredible.”
Woodward wrote that other officials later confirmed that the U.S. military had a “secret new weapons system.” Those officials did not want their names to be made public. They told Woodward that they were surprised Trump had spoken about it.
The president’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump did not talk about any specific weapon system. “We’ve always got something out there that our adversaries don’t know about,” O’Brien said.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from CNN, The Washington Post and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
interview - n. a meeting between a reporter and another person in order to get information for a story
strenuous - adj. requiring great energy and effort
panic - n. a situation that causes many people to become afraid and to rush to do something
impress - v. to cause someone to feel admiration or interest
sacred - adj. highly value and important
location - n. a place
accomplish - v. to succeed
legitimacy - n. the condition of being real and accepted
incredible - adj. difficult or impossible to believe
adversary - n. enemy or opponent