President Donald Trump on Thursday denied lying to Americans about the severity of the coronavirus after a bombshell new book by journalist Bob Woodward revealed that he deliberately downplayed the crisis.

Trump denies lying to US about virus after bombshell book

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by Sebastian Smith

President Donald Trump on Thursday denied lying to Americans about the severity of the coronavirus after a bombshell new book by journalist Bob Woodward revealed that he deliberately downplayed the crisis.

Trump’s taped admission to Woodward that he minimized the pandemic in public, while being aware from the start about the unique danger presented by Covid-19, has set off alarm bells less than eight weeks before election day.

Asked at a hastily organized White House press conference “Why did you lie to the American people?” Trump responded: “I didn’t lie.”

The Republican, who is down in the polls against Democrat Joe Biden and faces overwhelming disapproval from Americans on his handling of the coronavirus crisis, insisted that he’d softened the dangers in public so as to preserve calm.

“I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming ‘Death! Death!'” he argued.

But Trump has been thrown onto the defense after multiple excerpts and recordings from Woodward’s book “Rage” were released on Wednesday.

Following two Fox News interviews, dozens of tweets, and the press conference, Trump continued his bid to get his election message back on track by holding a rally with supporters in Freeland, Michigan.

He told the excited crowd that his approach to Covid-19 matched that of the British government in World War II with its famous “Keep calm and carry on” morale-boosting posters.

Apparently meaning Woodward, he referred in his speech to “this whack job that wrote the book.”

– Revelations –
“Rage” is filled with startling episodes, including the assessment by Trump’s then director of national intelligence, the respected Dan Coats, that the president “doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”

But the segments in which Trump candidly discusses the coronavirus pandemic — responsible for killing almost 200,000 Americans — are getting the most attention.

Despite openly describing to Woodward the dangerous characteristics of the then unknown virus, including the fact that it is transmitted by air, Trump said “I wanted to always play it down.”

Trump went on to explain to Woodward that he wanted to avoid causing panic. However, his acknowledgement that he failed to tell the country the unvarnished truth prompted outrage.

Critics quickly resurrected his multiple statements from the early stages of the pandemic in which he told the public that it was no worse than a regular flu and breezily predicted it would “disappear” in a short period.

“He knew how deadly it was,” Biden said Wednesday.

“He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”

– Can’t shoot the messenger –
Trump usually fights criticism by blaming what he calls “the fake news” and claiming that unnamed sources commonly used in White House reporting don’t exist.

But shoot the messenger won’t work in the case of “Rage.” The revelations rely mostly on Trump himself and Woodward — famous for bringing down Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal — has published recordings.

In one dig at Woodward on Thursday, Trump tweeted that if the legendary reporter thought that the quotes were “so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?”

“Because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!” Trump argued.

Quite why Trump would grant Woodward so much access in an election year, however, is a question many in Washington are asking. The reporter got 18 interviews with the president and was entirely open about them being put on tape.

“I did it out of curiosity,” was Trump’s explanation Thursday.

According to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump went ahead “because he is the most transparent president in history.”

Trump, who has a lifetime experience in salesmanship and performing on television, has indeed set a new record for his unprecedented number of press conferences and impromptu question-and-answer sessions.

But the performances often leave his own staff scrambling in damage limitation mode, like when he mused at a press conference about the possible benefits of injecting Covid-19 patients with bleach.

In the final run before November 3 election day, aides and allies are again gritting their teeth.

“Honestly, (Woodward’s) access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the chief of staff role early on,” Trump’s current chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told Fox News.

Karl Rove, the Republican campaign mastermind in the George W. Bush era, had this warning for the incumbent: “If the president isn’t focused… the occupant of the Oval Office is set to change.”

Agence France-Presse

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Alert for arrival! Sinas: PNP ready to transport COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said all systems are in place to secure the speedy transport of the first batch of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech that will arrive in the country on Feb. 28.

“PNP units are fully prepared to perform their assigned duties under the task organization of PNP Vaccination Plan ‘Caduceus’ which is the strategic plan that will operationalize all security and public safety operations for the vaccine roll-out in the coming weeks and months, following the arrival of the vaccine shipments from abroad,” said chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, in a statement on Saturday night.

He said the PNP Vaccination Plan ‘Caduceus’ sets forth the security and public safety guidelines and procedures to be undertaken by the police in support to the Philippine National Covid-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan, as a member of the Task Group Vaccine Cold Chain and Logistics Management, Task Group Immunization Program, and Task Group Demand Generation and Communication.

“We have gone through a series of planning workshops and simulation exercises to ensure organized and orderly transport of the vaccine shipment to the storage facilities and distribution hubs on D-day when the vaccine rollout shall commence,” he said.

The PNP, he said, will be guided by the instructions of health authorities to administer the vaccine to police personnel who have been identified among the priority recipients such as those assigned to frontline medical and health care duties, as well as those who will be fielded to assist Department of Health personnel in administering the vaccine and other police front-liners.

“We are confident that our nation will pull through, bounce back and heal as one. God bless the Philippines,” he added.

On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte will lead the turnover ceremony for the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

Earlier on Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that 525,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility will arrive in the country on March 1. (PNA)

Kung ayaw ni Sara: Panelo floats Bong Go as Duterte’s successor

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go is also qualified to become President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor in 2022, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Friday.

He made the statement three days after Duterte made a firm stance that his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte, would not run for president in next year’s elections.

Panelo, who is one of those who initiated the clamor for Sara’s presidency, said Go also has the potential to lead the country.

“Meron na tayong dalawang pinagpipilian kung talagang ayaw ni Mayor Sara, kung hindi na magbago ang isipan niya (At least, we now have two options if Mayor Sara decides not to run and will no longer change her mind),” he said. “Kung hindi tatakbo si Mayor Sara, oh eh di pwede na rin si Senator Bong Go (If Mayor Sara does not run, we can have Senator Bong Go).”

During a situational briefing on the impact of Tropical Storm Auring in Tandag City on Tuesday, Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel urged Duterte to convince either Sara or Go to join the 2022 presidential race.

The President, however, was opposed to Pimentel’s call to let his daughter succeed him when he steps down next year.

Panelo said Duterte, during the situational briefing in Tandag City, instead encouraged Go to pursue the presidential bid.

He said Duterte saw potential in Go who served as his long-time aide before getting elected as a senator.

“Mukhang sa pananaw niya, ito naman si Bong Go. Nakita ni Presidente, aba okay ‘to ah (For him, Bong Go should be given the chance. The President believes Go can do the job),” Panelo said.

He also floated the possibility of a Go-Duterte tandem in 2022.

“Kita niyo, Go-Duterte, hindi ba maganda (Go-Duterte is good, isn’t it?),” he said.

Continuing Duterte’s legacy

Panelo said there would be continuity of Duterte’s legacy, in case Go decides to join the 2022 presidential derby.

Like Duterte, he said, Go also shows compassion to Filipinos and exhibits courage.

Panelo, however, acknowledged that Go is not yet ready to take on the presidency.

“Sinasabi niya (Go), gusto ko lang serbisyo. Exactly, kung gusto mo serbisyo, eh ‘di tumakbo kang president, maging president ka. Eh ‘di continue ng service mo at the same time, continuity rin ng legacy ni Presidente (He said he just wants to serve the public. You should run for president and be the president if you want to continue serving the people. At the same time, there would be continuity of the President’s legacy),” he said.

Fight vs. corruption

As the country’s chief executive, Duterte vowed to curb illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption under his watch.

In a public address delivered on Wednesday, the President renewed his vow to fight corruption until the end of his term but admitted that it is impossible to have an “entirely clean” government.

Panelo said Duterte’s successor should have the same resolve to stop corruption in government.

“Corruption remains at talagang kahit pa ‘yung susunod kay Presidente, mahihirapan din (Corruption remains and the President’s successor would also have a difficult time dealing with it). But like the president, he can always, as he did, reduce and minimize corruption,” he said. (PNA)

Kanya-kanyang diskarte LGU! Palace: COVID-19 testing no longer required for travelers

Malacañang on Saturday announced that it is no longer mandatory for travelers to undergo coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing and quarantine.

“Travelers shall no longer be required to undergo Covid-19 testing, except if the local government unit (LGU) of destination will make testing as a requirement prior to travel. Testing will be limited to RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

However, travelers who exhibit symptoms upon arrival at their destination have to undergo quarantine, Roque said.

This developed after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved on Friday the uniform travel protocols for land, air, and sea that need to be observed by all LGUs, he said.

The approved protocols, Roque said, were crafted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in close coordination with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and the League of Cities of the Philippines.

Despite the easing of restrictions for travelers, he said travelers should still follow minimum public health standards.

“Authorities shall continue to strictly implement the minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and the wearing of face masks and face shields across all settings,” Roque said.

He said the strict implementation of clinical and exposure assessment in all ports of entry and exit still needs to be observed.

The health assessment of passengers, supervised by medical doctors, will be mandatory upon entry into the port or terminal and exit at the point of destination, Roque said.

“On documentary requirements, the travel authority issued by the Joint Task Force Covid Shield and health certificates shall no longer be required,” he said.

However, authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary, Roque said.

“They must likewise pass symptom-screening at the ports of entry and exit,” he added.

One-stop shop application

Roque said the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System will now be institutionalized as the “one-stop shop application or communication” for travelers.

“The StaySafe.ph System shall be utilized as the primary contact tracing system. Other existing contact tracing applications, such as Traze App, must be integrated with the StaySafe.ph System,” he said.

Roque said all ports and terminals must have sufficient isolation facilities.

All ports and terminals, he added, should also have a referral system so symptomatic travelers could be transferred to quarantine facilities, enabling the Bureau of Quarantine for airports or local health officials for LGUs to take over.

Roque said all buses in Metro Manila bound for the provinces are also required to use the Integrated Terminal Exchange as the central hub for transportation.

“At the option of the LGUs, they may provide transportation for all travelers who are transiting from one LGU to another in cases of arrivals at air and seaports to their end-point destinations,” he said.

Roque said the LGUs, DILG, DOST, the departments of health, tourism, and transportation, and the Philippine National Police should ensure the “smooth” implementation of the approved protocols. (PNA)

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