WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has not seen memos in which one of his top advisers warned earlier this year that a coronavirus pandemic could endanger millions of Americans, but that even if he had, it would not have changed his response to the crisis.
Peter Navarro, the top trade and manufacturing aide to the president, laid out the warning in two memos – one on Jan. 29 and another on Feb. 23 – while Trump played down concerns about the coronavirus, according to reports from the New York Times and Axios.
Trump said he didn’t know about the memos until a couple of days ago. “I asked him about it a little while ago because I read something about a memo,” Trump said during a White House coronavirus briefing.
Trump downplayed Navarro’s warnings, arguing that he already had started to move to shut down U.S. borders by the time the memos were written.
Trump defended his remarks, telling reporters Tuesday that the number of coronavirus cases “really didn’t build up for a while” and that he didn’t want to cause unnecessary panic.
“I am a cheerleader for this country,” he said. “I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything else.”
Even so, “I obviously was concerned about it because I closed down our country to China, which was heavily infected,” Trump said.
Trump announced on Jan. 31 that the U.S. would ban most foreign nationals who had been to China the two previous weeks from traveling to the United States.