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Donald Trump, under fire for COVID-19 deaths, attempts to shift blame to Bob Woodward

Washington: US President Donald Trump has tried to turn the tables on Bob Woodward, saying the acclaimed journalist should have alerted authorities if he believed Trump put lives at risk by downplaying the threat of the coronavirus early in the year.

Trump also lauded his handling of coronavirus even as it recorded more deaths than any other country in the world.

U President Donald Trump walks away from the media to board Air Force One for a trip to a campaign rally in Michigan.Credit:AP

Trump was on the defensive for a second day running on Friday (AEST) after excerpts of Trump's interviews for Woodward's forthcoming book Rage emerged.

In the book Trump says he deliberately minimised the threat of the virus to avoid panicking the American public. In a February interview with Woodward, Trump made clear he knew how deadly the virus was, even as he was publicly comparing it favourably to the seasonal flu.

"If Bob Woodward thought what I said was bad, then he should have immediately, right after I said it, gone out to the authorities so they could prepare and let them know," Trump said at a White House press conference.

Earlier in the day he tweeted: "Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers."

Journalist bob Woodward conducted over a dozen interviews with Trump for his forthcoming book. Credit:AP

Explaining why he agreed to participate in over a dozen interviews with the famous Watergate reporter, Trump said: "I did it out of curiosity because I do have respect and I wanted to see if someone like that can write good. I don't think he can but let's see what happens."

Trump said: "Bob Woodward is somebody that I respect, just from hearing the name for many, many years. Not knowing too much about his work, not caring about his work."

Trump said he believed the US had "possibly" done the best job in the world in combating the coronavirus, even as it has recorded almost 192,000 deaths, more than any other country.

"If you look at the European Union right now they are having breakouts like you've never seen before and frankly their numbers are are at a level that are much worse than the numbers here," Trump said.

"We have done much, much better than the European Union…We have done a phenomenal job."

The per capita death rate in the US for COVID-19 is below European countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom, but has now overtaken countries such as Sweden and France.

Trump said he believed the US had "rounded the final turn" on the virus as he predicted a vaccine would be available within months.

Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden said Trump's interviews with Woodward displayed an "almost criminal" dereliction of duty.

"He waved a white flag, he walked away. He didn't do a damn thing," Biden said in an interview with CNN.

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