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Donald Trump pushed back on Sunday against recent reporting that intelligence officials were issuing classified reports to his administration as early as last November warning about the early outbreak of coronavirus in the Wuhan province of China.
The president also claimed the restrictions he placed on travel to the US from China in January have saved "tens of thousands" of American lives, which he has used as a data point to defend against criticism that he did not take the threat of the coronavirus seriously.
"Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the U.S.," Mr Trump tweeted. "Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner," the president added.
Mr Trump appeared to be responding to recent reporting by ABC News and other outlets that his administration had been warned for weeks and even months about the budding health crisis in China, even as White House officials and congressional Republicans downplayed the severity of the coronavirus through much of the first three months of 2020.
The US military's National Center for Medical Intelligence compiled a classified report on the spreading contagion in November 2019 through analysis of wire and computer intercepts in the Wuhan region, ABC News reported in April.
"Fake News got it wrong again, as always, and tens of thousands of lives were saved by my EARLY BAN of China into our Country. The people that we’re [sic] allowed were heavily scrutinized and tested U.S. citizens, and as such, I welcome them with open arms!" the president tweeted, without providing any evidence that ABC News or other outlets' reporting was erroneous.
ABC News' reporting also contradicts the president's tweet on Sunday that the early intelligence briefings he received about Covid-19 were "very non-threatening."
"Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," one of ABC News' sources told the outlet of the military intel report from November.
The Pentagon issued a statement at the time that said the intel report did not exist.