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The 2020 Texas Tribune Festival

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin defends Trump’s early coronavirus statements, comparing them to FDR’s after Pearl Harbor

During The Texas Tribune Festival, Babin and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess both backed the president after revelations from a forthcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas.

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Two Republican U.S. House members from Texas said they don't believe President Donald Trump withheld any information from Congress or the American public about the seriousness of the coronavirus, defending the president against a report that Trump knew about the "deadly" nature of the virus even when he downplayed its threat publicly.

U.S. Reps. Brian Babin of Woodville and Michael Burgess of Lewisville, both medical professionals, said during The Texas Tribune Festival that they believe Trump took every preventive measure to stop the pandemic from spreading, including restricting travel from mainland China in the beginning of February and later from Europe. In the interview with the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker, Babin went as far as to compare the president’s performance to that of President Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Roosevelt “gave a very, very serious speech to the House of Representatives. He didn’t say that the world was coming to an end,” Babin said. “He didn’t say all would be doomsday. He was inspiring the American people, and this is exactly what I think President Trump is trying to do to alleviate fears, undo fears, to try to prevent from creating some kind of a panic.”

The United States has the highest total number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus in the world.

In a forthcoming book, journalist Bob Woodward reports that Trump told him in early February that the situation with the virus was dangerous, even as he downplayed it publicly.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

That same month, Trump publicly reassured the country that the virus was "under control" in America.

But Burgess suggested that he didn’t think that Trump was hiding the danger the virus posed.

“I don’t feel like this was information that was being withheld from anyone because as a Congress, we were briefed by all the public health people prior to the president’s announcement of the travel ban,” he said.

The revelation in Woodward’s book prompted outrage from Democrats who say that Trump should have done more to warn the country about the dangers of the virus. Most Texas Republicans, meanwhile, have stayed silent on the issue. One exception is U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who said Thursday that he thought Trump “might have been able to handle that in a way that both didn’t panic the American people but also gave them accurate information."

Another Republican in the Texas delegation, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston, said Thursday that Trump’s “intent was very good” in discussing the pandemic. Crenshaw made the comment at an event Thursday in the Houston area while discussing the need for leaders who do not take advantage of people’s fears.

“You see it with the current debate with the president about, you know, whether he played it down or not,” Crenshaw said. “He never uses the right words … let’s just be honest — but it’s also pretty clear that his intent was very good — do not make people panic. Do not simply reflect and engage in fear. There’s nothing good that can come of that, absolutely nothing.”

Burgess, meanwhile, praised Operation Warp Speed on Friday — a public-private partnership created by the Trump administration to accelerate the development and manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine. Burgess said he even applied to be a part of the clinical trials for the vaccine on the National Institutes of Health website.

“I do think there will be an available vaccine in the month of October, late in the month of October,” Burgess said.

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