- Veteran journalist Bob Woodward on Monday rejected claims made by President Donald Trump about his administration's decision to restrict travel from China amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump fully appreciated the move, saying it was welcomed by his top health advisors, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, was pushed back.
- But Woodward reports in his new book "Rage" that Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and HHS Secretary Alex Azar jointly urged the President to implement the travel restriction in late January.
- "Historians will write about the lost month of February for ten years," Woodward said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Today" show.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
At least five of President Donald Trump's top advisors asked him to restrict travel from China in late January, despite the president repeatedly claiming he made the decision alone, reports journalist Bob Woodward in a new book.
Woodward writes in his "Rage" exposé at the White House that health professionals, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, advised Trump to introduce the travel restriction on January 31st meeting.
But Trump has said in both public interviews and in a conversation with Woodward that he was the only one at that meeting who supported the travel restriction and that his aides actively opposed the move.
"I had 21 people in my office, in the Oval Office, and of the 21 there was one person who said we need to close it. That was me," Trump told Woodward in a March 19 interview. "Nobody wanted it because it was too early."
But Woodward reports that Trump's advisors have gathered in the White House and made a unified recommendation.
"I think this is the only way we have to go now," Fauci told Trump, according to the book.
The President's National Security Advisor, Robert O'Brien, and the National Security Council's senior official overseeing Asia, Matthew Pottinger, agreed with the health experts and urged the President to go along with their proposal.
"It is one of those shocks to me after writing about nine presidents that the President of the United States has the specific knowledge that could have saved lives." Woodward said during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Today" show on Monday morning. "Historians will write about the lost month of February for ten years."
Trump has repeatedly touted his decision to partially cut travel from China in early February as one of the boldest and most effective measures his administration has taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
"Everyone was against it. Almost everyone, I would say, was absolutely against it," said Trump said during a March Fox News town hall. "I decided to go to China weeks early … And I have to say, doctors – nobody wanted to make that decision back then."
Trump then claimed in May that he was "criticized by everyone, including Dr. Fauci" for his decision.
The president has also exaggerated the scope of the travel restriction, calling it an outright ban when it was only a partial restriction that allowed thousands of Chinese nationals to travel to the US during the pandemic.
Trump was far from being the first world leader to restrict travel from China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated late last year. Nearly 40 countries had already placed restrictions when he called and several major airlines had suspended flights out of the country as well.
The travel restriction, which went into effect on February 2, made exceptions for immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents, and also allowed residents of the Hong Kong and Macau areas of China to travel to the United States. About 8,000 people from the Chinese areas came to the United States in the first three months after the restriction was imposed. the Associated Press reported. Approximately 27,000 Americans living in China traveled back to the US in February alone, and more than 1,600 of them were not monitored for Covid-19 by the US government.
The New York Times reported that between December 31, 2019 and the beginning of April 430,000 people came to the USA on direct flights from China.
Woodward interviewed the President 18 times for his book between December 2019 and July 2020. In a taped conversation with Woodward, the president admitted that he had deliberately downplayed the coronavirus threat.