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Woodward: 'The president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives'

The investigative journalist and author spoke about his interviews with Trump on the "TODAY" show.
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WASHINGTON — Journalist Bob Woodward said Monday that he was shocked when he learned that President Donald Trump "possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives" in January.

In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "TODAY" show, Woodward said he found out about a briefing the president had received from his national security advisers on Jan. 28 about the pandemic's coming to the United States and that, only a few days later, on Feb. 4, Trump didn't share the information in his State of the Union address, which 40 million people watched.

Woodward said Trump missed an opportunity that night to convey the warning when he said only that the U.S. was doing everything possible. "At that moment if, like, Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor, [he] had told the American people the truth, a lot more could have been done," Woodward said.

"It is one of those shocks, for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives, and historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years," Woodward said.

Woodward also released a new audio clip on "TODAY" from one of his 18 interviews with Trump for his book "Rage," which is set to be released Tuesday. In the recording, Trump talks about having positive relationships with leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of many strongmen the president has praised.

"I get along very well with Erdoğan, even though you're not supposed to, because everyone says, 'What a horrible guy.' But, you know, for me it works out good. It's funny the relationships I have — the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You'll explain that to me some day, OK? But maybe it's not a bad thing. The easy ones are the ones I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much," Trump told Woodward.

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Asked for his reaction to those comments Monday, Woodward said that Dan Coats, when he served as Trump's director of national intelligence, came to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin had something on Trump and suspected the worst.

"Dan Coats, who was the No. 1 intelligence officer in the country, did not have proof. They went through all the intelligence, but he indeed harbored that suspicion," Woodward said.