Even as he publicly sought to downplay the threat of the coronavirus to Americans earlier this year, President Trump told author Bob Woodward that he knew the virus was serious and deadly.

“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7, three weeks before the first U.S. death from COVID-19 was announced.

According to audio excerpts from interviews Woodward conducted for his forthcoming book, “Rage,” excerpts of which were published Wednesday, Trump told journalist and Washington Post columnist that he knew the virus — which has now killed more than 890,000 people worldwide and over 190,000 Americans — was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said, adding: “This is deadly stuff.”

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