Famed Journalist Bob Woodward brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon with his reporting on the Watergate scandal. Now he talks to DER SPIEGEL about Donald Trump’s “catastrophic” handling of the coronavirus, the outcome of the coming election and his new book, “Rage.”
Interview Conducted By Roland Nelles
Washington seems dead amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the offices around the White House have been closed, and the few restaurants in the United States capital that have stayed open are usually empty.
Bob Woodward, 77, is also working from home. For decades, he has been among the most important chroniclers of political affairs in the capital. In the early 1970s, he uncovered the Watergate scandal together with his colleague Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post, leading to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon. He later wrote books about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Woodward has been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes.
For his new book, “Rage,” which was just published in German, he interviewed top government figures over a span of 10 months, including President Trump.
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DER SPIEGEL spoke to Woodward via telephone.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Woodward, in your book, you conclude that Trump is the wrong man for the job of the presidency. Why?
Woodward: I concluded that the evidence is overwhelming that he failed catastrophically in managing the virus. In a top-secret meeting with his National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and others on Jan. 28, it was laid out to him in the clearest terms that a pandemic was coming, that it was going to be like the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed 675,000 people in this country. Fifty million people died in that pandemic a century ago. And Trump, instead of telling the public about it, covered it up.
DER SPIEGEL: As of now, more than 8 million people have been infected with the virus in the U.S. So far, 217,000 Americans have died.
Woodward: The president could have leveled with the public — particularly at his State of the Union Address on Feb. 4 when talking to Congress — and laid out what’s going on, what’s happening. He only spent, what, 15 seconds on the virus? He said we are doing everything we can. And 40 million people are watching this. He could have said, “I’ve been warned, and we have a major public health crisis coming.” And he did nothing of the kind.
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