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President Trump said Sunday he wanted to take swift action against the coronavirus when others doubted its severity during a Fox News town hall with Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum that focused on reopening the U.S.
Trump answered questions submitted by Fox News viewers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Question: Why did you not act sooner to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic?
“On January 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Trump said, citing information from an intelligence briefing.
Trump went on to say, “It was a brief conversation and it was only on January 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed down the country to China and we had 21 people in the room. I was the only one that wanted to close it down. Very good people in the room--very well-meaning.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Fox News on Sunday the president's timeline was accurate, saying the intelligence community first briefed Trump about the virus on January 23, saying at the time the virus didn't appear to be too deadly. Of course, investigators later changed their tune.
Trump said on February 26, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not see the coronavirus outbreak as a serious issue.
“February 26, Nancy Pelosi [says] lets dance in the streets of Chinatown to show it’s not going to hurt us. In other words, I’m not blaming her for it, but nobody thought this was going to happen,” Trump said.
Trump said that even China did not know the outbreak was serious. “The intelligence agencies told me on January 23rd, shortly thereafter, I closed down the country. But I didn’t do it because of what they said. They said it very matter of factly [as if] it was not a big deal.”
“The intelligence agencies are going to tell you that tomorrow.”
Fox News' Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum and John Roberts contributed to this report.