Murkowski’s take on Woodward revelations: ‘Very concerning’

Sen. Lisa Murkowski with three recording devices in the foreground, held by people not in image.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski takes questions from reporters in the basement of the Capitol in 2017. Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she’s concerned by reports of what President Trump told journalist Bob Woodward months ago, when Trump said he was intentionally underplaying the threat of the coronavirus.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in March, according to portions of Woodward’s audio recording. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

A month prior, Trump acknowledged to Woodward that the coronavirus was deadly and much more serious than seasonal flu. Meanwhile, in public he described COVID-19 as less threatening than the flu and said it would go away.

Murkowski says she, like the public at large, has only read excerpts of the interviews.

“Some of the things I find quite surprising and quite concerning,” she said at the Capitol Thursday. “But again, I haven’t had an opportunity to read these full interviews but some of the press snippets have been certainly very, uh, very concerning.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young did not respond to questions on the subject Thursday.

Murkowski also said the Senate will try again to pass a new coronavirus relief package. A scaled-back stimulus plan failed to get the 60 votes it needed to advance in the Senate Thursday. Democrats united against it, calling it inadequate.

The House has passed a $3.4 trillion bill, and House leaders have offered to trim it to $2.2 trillion. The Senate bill would have less than half a trillion dollars.

“It was not everything for everybody. There were some things in it that I would have rather not have been there,” Murkowski said. “But it was an opportunity to give targeted relief to small businesses, to help with schools, to help build out the vaccine, do the testing. It was a start.”

She objected to tax credits and subsidies in the bill to support private and religious schools, which she called a step toward school vouchers. She also did not like that the bill reserved two-thirds of its education funds for schools with in-person instruction. 

All Republicans except Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voted to advance the bill. That left it eight votes short.