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April 10, 2020 – On March 2, President Trump described the Coronavirus outbreak as entirely unpredictable, adding that “six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this.” 

The historical record, however, proves otherwise. 

We have since learned more about the spate of increasingly dire warnings Trump and his advisors began receiving late last year and that reached a crescendo in early 2020 — when Trump would have the American people believe no one was the wiser. The fact is that warnings were mounting as Trump was singularly focused on cementing a trade deal with China, whose leadership he lauded even as Beijing’s irresponsible handling of the outbreak allowed it to spiral out of control. 

Taken together, these warnings illustrate that the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t only predictable; it was predicted, even as Trump ignored those very warnings. 

November 2019: Intelligence officials began tracking the spread of an unknown pathogen in China and briefed developments multiple times to the White House, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and other intelligence officials, according to reports.

December 2019: Intelligence officials provide repeated briefings to the National Security Council and other government officials about the developing outbreak in China.

Early January 2020: Intelligence officials include a “detailed explanation” of the developing outbreak in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). In the coming weeks, Trump’s PDBs would include many warnings about the coronavirus.

January 2, 2020: CDC Director Robert Redfield contacts the National Security Council to warn of the spread of an unknown pathogen throughout China.

January 3, 2020: According to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Redfield relays coronavirus-related information from his Chinese colleagues to Azar and other members of the Trump administration.

January 23, 2020: Peter Navarro, Trump’s Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, sends a memorandum to the President warning of the consequences of the coronavirus. The memo emphasizes that it represents a far more contagious and dangerous threat than the seasonal flu.

January 30, 2020: The WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

January 31, 2020: Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warns that the United States is “facing an unprecedented public health threat.”

January and February 2020: Intelligence officials issue repeated reports and a “constant flow of warning” to the Trump administration about the threat of the coronavirus.

Early February 2020: “A majority of the intelligence reporting included in daily briefing papers and digests from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA” revolve around the threat of coronavirus by this point, according to the Washington Post

February 3, 2020: Presenting an outlier scenario, U.S. Army-North projects that “between 80,000 and 150,000 could die” from coronavirus in the United States. These projections reached high-ranking officials within NORTHCOM. 

February 23, 2020: Peter Navarro writes another memorandum to President Trump warning of “an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans.” 

February 25, 2020: National Center for Medical Intelligence raises the Risk of Pandemic warning to WATCHCON 1, which signifies an imminent crisis.

February 25, 2020: The acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness reportsto senior military leaders that coronavirus is presenting “an increasing force health protection (FHP) threat in areas where Department of Defense (DoD) personnel live and work.”

February 27, 2020: Department of Defense officials warn at the Joint Chief of Staff daily intelligence briefing that they expect COVID-19 will “likely” become a global pandemic within a month.

February 28, 2020: WHO raises the coronavirus threat assessment to its highest level of alert.

We are former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org