Trump said Sunday night that he was first briefed about coronavirus on January 23 and indicated the US intelligence agencies would be issuing a statement in the coming days.
“On January 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import. In other words it wasn’t, ‘Oh we gotta do something, we gotta do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on January 23,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall.
While Trump claims he was told that “there could be a virus coming in,” that January 23 briefing came three days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States.
The President was also briefed by Health and Human Services Secretary Secretary Alex Azar about the threat of the coronavirus during a January 18 phone call, according to multiple reports.
Trump also said that at the time, the US intelligence community was not “competently run.”
“And the intelligence agencies, which have now — now, now — because before they weren’t, which are now very competently run with some great people….the intelligence agencies will tell you that tomorrow,” Trump said Sunday.
As late as March 9, Trump continued to downplay the threat of coronavirus, comparing it to the flu despite public health experts’ warnings against such a comparison.
Trump also falsely claimed in his tweet that those allowed into the US from China “were heavily scrutinized and tested U.S. citizens.” Passengers returning to the United States from China were not tested at airports, though there had been some basic screening and a request that those passengers self-quarantine for 14 days.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.