Lieu on Trump 'playing it down' on coronavirus: 'This is reckless homicide'
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is accusing President Trump of committing "reckless homicide" after it was revealed that Trump publicly downplayed the coronavirus threat while privately acknowledging its seriousness to journalist Bob Woodward.
"Having read more of the excerpts in the Woodward book where @realDonaldTrump is on tape, I’ve concluded this is not just dereliction of duty by @POTUS," Lieu, an outspoken Trump critic, tweeted on Wednesday, referencing Woodward's soon-to-be released book, "Rage."
"Trump repeatedly lied to the American people and that resulted in preventable deaths," Lieu added. "This is reckless homicide."
Reports surfaced earlier Wednesday about the recorded conversations between Woodward and Trump for the book. Trump told Woodward in early February that the coronavirus was "deadly" and far more severe than the flu.
In a separate interview in March, the president also said he wanted to downplay the threat despite knowing the severity of the virus.
“I wanted to always play it down," he said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic."
The private comments were markedly different than Trump's public rhetoric when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world. In February, Trump said the virus would soon disappear "like a miracle," and in March he claimed it was no more serious than influenza.
Democratic lawmakers vehemently criticized Trump following the new revelations. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a campaign appearance in Michigan that Trump's private comments amounted to “a life-and-death betrayal of the American people."
Biden also claimed that Trump downplayed the threat of the virus because he was most worried about the stock market's prospects.
Lieu asserted in a series of tweets that Trump took actions "he knew would result in many more deaths."
"Over 190,000 Americans have already died from #COVID19," he tweeted. "MUCH OF THIS WAS PREVENTABLE."
Trump has repeatedly dismissed criticism of his pandemic response. On Wednesday, he acknowledged his remarks to Woodward, saying "the fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country." Asked whether he downplayed the virus's threat or misled the public, the president said, "if you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so."