Trump advisers defend COVID-19 response in fiery CNN debate

Allies of President Trump on Sunday defended the commander in chief’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying he acted early to ban travel from China and ramped up production of medical equipment while not trying to panic Americans and cause chaos.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, in a contentious interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the president took the virus seriously in January, February and March after the outbreak was first reported in China despite comments the president made in an interview with Bob Woodward.

Host Jake Tapper questioned Navarro on why the president wasn’t being “straightforward with the American people?”

“He was straightforward,” Navarro responded.

“No, he wasn’t,” the CNN host countered.

“There was — look, look, Jake, Jake, I’m telling you what our strategy is,” Navarro said.

“Just answer the — it’s a very basic question,” Tapper said. “You want to talk about what you want to talk about, OK?”

Navarro accused Tapper of “cherry-picking.”

After several more minutes of back and forth, Navarro said Trump had prepared the administration for the steps it needed to take.

“The answer is, in February all the way through the middle of March, when the World Health Organization finally said there was a pandemic and China was hiding the information, finally, that’s when we knew that there was a pandemic,” he said. “And you know what, Jake? We were at that point prepared for the worst.”

Navarro noted that by then, the White House had personal protection equipment ready, as well as testing and vaccine development.

He later added that Tapper and CNN were “not honest with the American people.”

Critics pounced on a series of recorded interviews Trump gave Woodward for his book “Rage,” out Tuesday, to attack the president’s handling of the pandemic.

In the interviews, Trump acknowledged he was aware of how “deadly” the coronavirus was in February and said he “wanted to always play it down.”

“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” the president said.

He also told Woodward that he was aware it was more serious than the flu.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel argued on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that: “The president was calm and steady and methodical.”

She emphasized that the president canceled travel from China on Jan. 31, created the White House coronavirus task force on Feb. 9, mobilized American companies to ramp up production of protective equipment and ventilators while increasing testing for the virus.

“These are things you want from a president. Think of what would have happened if he’d have gone out and said, ‘This is awful. We should all be afraid. We don’t have a plan,’” she continued.

“It would have been a run on the banks. It would have been a run on the hospitals. It would have been a run on the grocery stores.”

She compared Trump’s response to COVID-19 with former President George W. Bush’s actions during the terror attacks on Sept. 11 after he was informed the second tower had been struck by an airplane.

“George Bush didn’t stand up and say, ‘America’s been attacked by terrorists. Everyone panic.’ They created a plan and they presented calm and certainty in a difficult time,” McDaniel said.

“What’s different this time is Democrats are politicizing it because we have an election, instead of saying, ‘Let’s work with you, Mr. President, and make sure we’re all fighting a virus like we’ve never seen together.’”

McDaniel predicted, “history will look back on him well as how he handled this pandemic.”