U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the daily White House coronavirus press briefing while flanked by Attorney General William Barr April 1, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. doesn’t know whether the Chinese government has underreported the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country.
“I’m not an accountant from China,” Trump said when asked at a White House press briefing whether China’s numbers are accurate.
Still, Trump said that Beijing’s tally appeared “to be a little bit on the light side, and I’m being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported.”
The president’s remarks came hours after a news report said the president received a secret intelligence brief concluding that China deliberately underreported the extent of its COVID-19 outbreak.
Bloomberg, citing three U.S. officials, reported that the intelligence community made that assessment in a classified report that the White House received last week.
But Trump said at the briefing that “we have not received” any intelligence reports showing that China underreported its coronavirus numbers.
The president has previously cast doubt on China’s numbers. But on Wednesday evening, he opted instead to talk up America’s trade relationship with Beijing, boasting that China will be buying billions of dollars’ worth of products from U.S. farmers.
“We really don’t know. How do we know whether they underreported or reported however they report,” Trump said of China’s reported coronavirus numbers.
“But we had a great call the other night,” Trump said referring to China’s president Xi Jinping. “We are working together on a lot of different things including trade. They’re buying a lot, they’re spending a lot of money. They’re giving it to our farmers.”
The coronavirus pandemic began around the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province – though Beijing’s foreign ministry has claimed that it didn’t necessarily originate there.
China has reported 82,361 coronavirus cases, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. That number is less than half of the total cases confirmed in the U.S., which has become the country with the highest number of reported infections in the world.
Trump repeated at the briefing that his relationship with Xi “is very good.”
“We have a great trade deal” with China, Trump continued. “We’d like to keep it. They’d like to keep it. And the relationship is good.”
“As to whether or not their numbers are accurate, I’m not an accountant from China,” Trump said.