Throughout his presidency, Trump has made it abundantly clear what is most important to him: money and how he is perceived. And during his final recorded phone call with Bob Woodward, true to form, the president reaffirmed that notion. Trump expressed concern about how he’d be portrayed in the journalist’s new book, Rage; showed little concern about the staggering number of Americans who have died of the coronavirus; and asked if Woodward covered how well the stock market has performed.
Trump’s lack of empathy has been on full display during the 18 interviews with Woodward that have been previously reported. During the 19th and final recording, obtained by CNN the president shows a laser-like focus on what he cares about most. Because this call happened after Woodward submitted the book to his publisher, it will not be a part of Rage.
— Peter Wade (@brooklynmutt) September 15, 2020
After Trump asked about how he would be portrayed in the book, Woodward told the president, “It’s a tough book, sir… There’s going to be a lot of controversy about it.” Woodward added that Trump’s handling of the pandemic is covered, saying, “It’s close to the bone.”
Trump responded by going on the defensive and making an untrue statement about how his administration handled the virus better than “most countries.” (Meanwhile, the United States accounts for nearly 23 percent of Covid-19 cases worldwide.)
Woodward told the president in response, “There are parts of the book you are not gonna like.”
Trump then immediately asked what about the book he would not like. Woodward explained that the book covers how the pandemic affected people’s lives, to which the president responded by touting the gains of the stock market.
“You know the market’s coming back very strong, you do know that,” Trump said.
“Yes, of course,” Woodward replied.
Trump still, with zero focus of the virus or then over 168,000 dead Americans asked, “Did you cover that in the book?”
Woodward responded, “Yeah, sure.”
Woodward then spoke to Trump about how millions of people have lost jobs due to the virus and how that might affect the coming presidential election.
But Trump brushed off Woodward’s concerns and dismissed any personal responsibility by saying, astonishingly, “Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.” The president added, “I acted early.”
Again, Trump callously went back to the markets: “So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?” Trump asked.
Woodward answered how most humans with an ounce of empathy should and replied, “Oh, sure.”
The two went on to discuss the degree to which the economy and the stock market are related. But Trump again expressed almost no concern about people on a personal level, telling Woodward, “But the economy is doing… Look, we’re close to a new stock market record.”
The president is lying when he twice said during the call that “nothing more could have been done” in regards to the virus. And the American people aren’t buying it either. According to an ABC/Ipsos poll released on Sunday, two-thirds of Americans say Trump acted too slowly in dealing with the virus and sixty-eight percent of Americans do not trust what the president says about the pandemic.