We know from Bob Woodward's recorded interviews that President Trump had a good sense of how dangerous COVID-19 was early on and decided to play down the risk to prevent public "panic." But Woodward also spoke with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and some of those recordings were shared on CNN Wednesday.
Kushner's April 18 interview focused on Trump's push to pivot from fighting the coronavirus outbreak, which at that point had killed 40,000 people and was ravaging New York, to getting businesses to reopen. "It was almost like Trump getting the country back from the doctors, right?" Kushner told Woodward. "In the sense that what he now did was, you know, he's going to own the open-up." The U.S. was mostly past "the panic phase" and "pain phase" of the pandemic and had arrived at "the comeback phase," Kushner predicted. "Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of — we have, like, a negotiated settlement."
"They wanted to sideline the doctors, simple and clear," CNN's Jamie Grangel paraphrased. "They saw the doctors as adversaries. When you say 'negotiated settlement,' it sounds more like the end of a war." Trump's COVID-19 response was largely guided by Kushner, so it was Kushner's response, too, she added.
Woodward himself told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night that the White House's theory that Trump may even benefit from the pandemic is "a Shakespearean tragedy unto itself."
"A Shakespearean tragedy unto itself," says Bob Woodward, of Jared Kushner recounting an Oval Office conversation in which he said Kayleigh McEnany said Pres. Trump might be better off politically because of Covid-19.
"I said 'is that possible?'" said an astonished Woodward. pic.twitter.com/6PudJZ26Jr
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) October 29, 2020
Kushner also told Woodward that Trump had gotten rid of several "overconfident idiots" — Woodward speculated he meant James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Gary Cohn — and said Trump had successfully staged a "full hostile takeover" of the Republican Party. You can listen to more audio excerpts at CNN.