White House senior adviser Jared Kushner responded to tapes of President Donald Trump downplaying the threat of the coronavirus in March by saying Trump was "very forthcoming with the American people" about the dangers of the illness.
He addressed audio tapes released by veteran journalist Bob Woodward in which Trump told Woodward he deliberately underplayed the threat of the coronavirus pandemic to the American public because he didn't want to create a panic.
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"The president was very forthcoming with the American people about what he knew and when he knew it," Kushner told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday. "President Trump, obviously, he banned travel from China, he banned travel from Europe. This was an unprecedented pandemic and as different facts evolved, the president informed the public."
Woodward disputed that characterization in an interview Monday on TODAY, telling Savannah Guthrie the president "possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives" in January.
Kushner also addressed concerns over a large indoor Trump rally in Las Vegas on Sunday in which people defied the guidelines of health experts and did not wear masks or socially distance. His comments come as the country prepares to pass the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, five months after Kushner called Trump's handling of the pandemic "a great success story."
"Look, President Trump believes that people should make their own decisions," Kushner said about the rally. "We put out guidance for how people should follow.
"Again, we have to figure out how to live our lives to some degree as well," he continued. "President Trump is not part of this let's lock down for perpetuity. People want to live their lives, they want to do what they want to do. Again, we're giving guidelines on how to do it safely."
Kushner also spoke about the leaders of Israel, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates coming together to sign an agreement normalizing relations that Kushner helped broker. A peace deal of this type has not been seen since a 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.
"I think what you're seeing now is the beginning of the end of the Israel-Arab conflict that has been going on for a long time," Kushner said. "This really signals the beginning of the president bringing people together. A lot of people said when President Trump was elected that he'd be bringing war and chaos, but what he's bringing today is peace.
"So this will hopefully reduce tension in the region, bring people closer together and long term make the Middle East much more stable."