Intelligence Report: Trump Was Warned Of Coronavirus Crisis As Early As November

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Written by Ann Brown
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Trump was warned of a potential pandemic crisis as early as November and brushed it off, according to a recently revealed Intelligence report. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Donald Trump initially brushed off concerns over the coronavirus becoming a public-health and economic threat despite a 2019 Intelligence report that revealed otherwise. White House economists warned Trump in 2019 that a pandemic could hit the U.S., and hit it hard. 

In September 2019, White House economists published a study that warned a pandemic disease could kill a half-million people in the U.S. and devastate the economy. According to insiders, the Trump administration failed to organize a preparation plan, The New York Times reported.

Instead, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread from China to the rest of the world, Trump’s top economic advisers downplayed the potential threat the virus could be to the U.S. economy and public health.

China reported its first death on Jan. 11. The first confirmed case in the U.S. was announced on Jan. 21, according to a New York Times timeline.

“I don’t think corona is as big a threat as people make it out to be,” the acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Tomas Philipson, told reporters during a Feb. 18 briefing. This happened to be the same day that more than a dozen U.S. cruise ship passengers who had contracted the coronavirus had to be evacuated. 

The study by White House economists, which was requested by the National Security Council, looks at the various ways the pandemic would affect the U.S. economy, including the shutdown of schools and businesses.

The report weighs the trade-offs involved in slowing the economy in order to contain the spread of the virus by “balancing its incremental benefits against the enormous costs the suppression policy imposes on the U.S. economy.”

“Suppression efforts inflict considerable damage on the economy, reducing activity by about $36 billion per week, the study estimated,” according to the New York Times.

The 2019 White House study wasn’t specifically about the emergence of the coronavirus but instead looked at a possible pandemic influenza.

Still, it was as far back as late November that U.S. intelligence officials began warning the White House of a contagion spreading through China’s Wuhan region. And these officials were concerned that it could spread to the U.S., the New York Times reported.

Those concerns were expressed in a November intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

“Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources said of the NCMI report. “It was then briefed multiple times” to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House. But on April 8, the Pentagon issued a statement denying the “product/assessment” existed.

According to sources, there were several briefings through December for policymakers and decisionmakers throughout the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House. The outcome of those briefings was detailed in the president’s daily brief of intelligence matters in early January.

“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” the source said of preliminary reports from Wuhan. “But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on.”

The report would have set off “a significant alarm,” said former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Mick Mulroy (now an ABC News contributor). “And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency.”

Mulroy added, “Medical intelligence takes into account all source information — imagery intelligence, human intelligence, signals intelligence. Then there’s analysis by people who know those specific areas. So for something like this to have come out, it has been reviewed by experts in the field. They’re taking together what those pieces of information mean and then looking at the potential for an international health crisis.”

Despite the information about the report coming to light, the White House is still denying prior knowledge.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.

On April 5, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told ABC, “I can’t recall…But we have many people who watch this closely. We have the premier infectious disease research institute in America, within the U.S. Army. So, our people who work these issues directly watch this all the time.”

When asked if he had known about briefings to the National Security Council in December, Esper said he was “not aware of that.”

It wasn’t until Jan. 22 that Trump made his first comments about the virus. When asked in a CNBC interview if he was worried about a pandemic in the U.S., Trump answered, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

It was not until March 13 when Trump declared a national emergency and mobilized the resources of the federal government to assist public-health agencies in dealing with the crisis, ABC News reported.