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By Dominique Mosbergen

04/07/2020 05:29 am ET Updated 13 hours ago

Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, reportedly penned two memos — in January and then February — warning of potential catastrophe because of COVID-19

President Donald Trump said repeatedly in March that “nobody” could’ve predicted a crisis at the scale of the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe.

“Nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion,” Trump said March 19. A week later, he reiterated that “nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.”

But according to reports in The New York Times and Axios on Monday, at least one top official in Trump’s own administration sounded the alarm ― in late January and then again in February ― about the potentially catastrophic impacts of the virus that causes COVID-19 on the United States.

In a Jan. 29 memo about the coronavirus addressed to the National Security Council, Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, warned that the “risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked,” the Times reported. The disease could kill up to half a million Americans, Navarro warned in the document, and cost the U.S. trillions of dollars if no action was taken to contain the virus.

“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” the memo read.

Maggie Haberman



SCOOP – WH trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote a late January memo warning of a possible pandemic that would cause financial and human catastrophe …

Trade Adviser Warned White House in January of Risks of a Pandemic

A memo from Peter Navarro said failure to contain a coronavirus outbreak could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars in economic losses. It is the most direct warning known…

Navarro recommended at the time that the U.S. enact “an immediate travel ban on China,” the origin of the virus. Two days later, Trump blocked most foreign nationals from entering the U.S. if they’d been in China during the prior two weeks — a ban that still stands today. However, as the Times reported last week, at least 40,000 people have arrived in the U.S. on direct flights from China since Trump’s travel ban was imposed.

The paper said Monday that Navarro’s January memo was “the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront” the coronavirus crisis.

About a month after his first memo, Navarro reportedly penned a second one, this time addressed to President Trump, escalating his warnings about COVID-19.

In the second memo, dated Feb. 23, Navarro wrote of an “increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1 – 2 million souls,” Axios reported.

Navarro called for Congress to approve emergency funds of at least $3 billion for prevention and treatment efforts.

“This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill,” he wrote.

Jonathan Swan


Navarro’s Feb. 23 memo was unsigned and distributed through the NSC. It began: “There is an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.” …

Documents: Navarro memos warning mass death circulated West Wing in January

President Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.

According to Axios, both of Navarro’s memos were circulated around the White House, the NSC and “multiple” other federal agencies. It’s unclear whether Trump ― who, until late-March, had repeatedly downplayed the threat of COVID-19 ― read either memo himself.On Feb. 24, a day after Navarro’s second memo, Trump tweeted that the virus was “very much under control in the USA.”

Donald J. Trump



The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!


4:42 PM – Feb 24, 2020

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The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.

More than 10,900 have died in the U.S. from the virus to date. The White House warned last week that the final death toll could be 100,000 to 240,000.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Navarro warned in a Feb. 23 memo of “1.2 million” deaths. He wrote “1 – 2 million” deaths. Prior versions also incorrectly stated 430,000 people had flown to the U.S. directly from China since Trump’s travel ban ― that figure actually refers to the total number since the virus was first disclosed to the public.


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