'A dereliction of duty': Former CIA director says Trump has gone 'Awol' in handling of coronavirus

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Donald Trump has gone “Awol” in his leadership of the US through the coronavirus pandemic, former CIA Director and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said in a scathing attack on the president.

“This president has essentially gone Awol from the job of leadership that he should be providing a country in trouble,” Mr Panneta told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, branding the situation a "major crisis".

"But the president, rather than bringing together some kind of national strategy to confront this crisis, simply resorts to tweeting about vandalism and other things to kind of divert attention from the crisis that’s there," Mr Panetta added.

The former CIA director, who served under President Barack Obama and as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, went on to signpost recent warnings from Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, that the outbreak in the US is spiralling.

“What we’ve seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that are well beyond the worst spikes that we’ve seen. That is not good news. We’ve got to get that under control, or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States,” Dr Fauci told the BBC on Wednesday.

Mr Panetta went on to accuse the president of a “dereliction of duty” in his handling of the outbreak stating: “He’s not good at crises.

“We have a president that is not willing to stand up and do what is necessary in order to lead this country during time of major crisis. I have never experienced a president who has avoided that responsibility."

On Wednesday the president reasserted his belief that the virus is going to “just disappear”.

“I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to, sort of, just disappear – I hope,” Mr Trump told Fox Business on Wednesday.

The US has seen a record number of daily infections mounting over the last week with more than 55,220 coronavirus cases recorded across the country on Thursday.

California has been at the forefront of the infection spike over the last week having surpassed 240,000 known infections, causing governor Gavin Newsom to rescind re-openings in some regions.

Florida and Texas have also been forced to scale back their re-openings after facing a spike in cases, and New York City announced that it will pause plans for inside dining amid fear that the spike in infections could lead back to the city.

The US remains the country with the highest number of coronavirus infections with over 2.7 million, almost double the number of Brazil, the country immediately behind.

Worldwide infections of the novel respiratory disease have reached over 10.9 million as of Friday, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.

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