- ‘We’ve never had a president who’s done anything like this before,’ says Watergate reporter
Oliver O’Connell, New York, Independent, September 10, 2020
Veteran reporter Carl Bernstein says that the contents of Bob Woodward’s recorded interviews with president Donald Trump are more incriminating than the facts in the Watergate scandal that brought down president Richard Nixon.
Commenting on the latest book by his former reporting partner, Rage, Bernstein told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that Trump is “putting his own narrow presidential re-election efforts in front of the safety, health and wellbeing of the people of the United States”.
“We’ve never had a president who’s done anything like this before,” he added in reference to the lack of a response to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bernstein points out that only a week after being told of the gravity of the situation Trump could have used the State of the Union speech before both houses of Congress to inform the American people that they faced a national emergency.
Instead, Bernstein says, the president put his own self-interest ahead of the health of the nation as documented in recorded conversations in what he describes as “a dereliction of duty … even more so than the Nixon tapes in this instance”.
“It’s going to be very hard to see how this cannot be addressed by Republicans in particular,” he said, recalling how party leadership went to the White House and told president Nixon that he had to resign.
“The facts here are even graver than Watergate,” said Bernstein.
President Trump was informed of the seriousness of the coronavirus in an Oval Office briefing on 28 January.
He spoke before Congress on 4 February, and told Woodward on 7 February about how deadly the new virus was.✕
Publicly he continued to liken it to a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear. It wasn’t until weeks later that he acknowledged this was not an ordinary flu and that it could be transmitted through the air.
The Washington Post reports that in a later conversation with Woodward on 19 March, the president admitted that he wanted to downplay the danger of the virus.
Beginning in 1972, Woodward and Bernstein did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal that led to the investigations in the Nixon presidency which resulted in his resignation in August 1974.