President Donald Trump intentionally played down the novel coronavirus and called it “deadly stuff,” according to audio recordings from some of Bob Woodward’s interviews with the president for his forthcoming book Rage.

Trump said in early February that he knew coronavirus was dangerous, highly contagious, airborne, “deadly” and maybe five times “more deadly” than the flu, according to recordings obtained by CNN.

“This is more deadly. This is five per- you know, this is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent. You know? So, this is deadly stuff,” Trump said in the audio, which is recorded 19 days before that US Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first possible community spread.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in a March tape. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Saudi leader

Trump also said during the interviews that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, Business Insider quoted from a copy of the book.

“I saved his a**,” he said. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

Khashoggi, 59, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018.

Rage will be officially released on Sept. 15 and contains 18 wide-ranging interviews with Trump between December 2019 and July as well as other interviews with Trump’s former top Cabinet officials.

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