Trump Says US Intelligence Officials Didn’t Bring Up CCP Virus Until Late January

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
May 4, 2020Updated: May 4, 2020

President Donald Trump stated on Sunday that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t bring up the issue of the CCP virus until late January and didn’t highlight the gravity of the threat during the briefing.

“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.

The president said shortly afterward he closed the country to China.

“China should have stopped it, but China—they didn’t know and they wouldn’t let us in. We wanted to go into China. They didn’t want us to go in because they didn’t want to have us see it. Maybe they were worried about competence. Maybe they were worried about something else,” said Trump.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, originated in China in 2019 before spreading around the world, infecting millions, and killing hundreds of thousands.

Office of the Director of National Intelligence spokesperson Susan Miller confirmed with CNN that the U.S. intelligence community’s first daily briefing about the contagion in China was shared with the president on Jan. 23, three days after the first confirmed case of the virus in the country and that he was then told that the virus was not that deadly.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien had also confirmed the same timeline to the media.

“And the intelligence agencies … which are now very competently run with some great people … The intelligence agencies will tell you that tomorrow,” Trump said Sunday.

The president said when he closed the country to China, 40,000 American citizens came back to the country and were tested. “Well, the different states. They were tested. They were quarantined when they were sick,” said Trump, adding that at that time they might not all have been tested very well.

“Some were tested, probably, not as good as they could have been. I can tell you, Florida tested the people very, very well, and look how low the numbers are in Florida. They’ve done a great job,” said the president.

Trump called the pandemic a “horrible thing” and said it shouldn’t have happened.

“But the main thing I have to do is bring our country back, and I want to get it back to where it was or maybe beyond where it was. You know, we have tremendous stimulus—all the money we’ve been talking about so far tonight. I think next year is going to be a phenomenal economic year,” he said.