Trump Administration Ignored National Intelligence Warning about Threat of Deadly Pandemic

by Vins
Published: Updated:

A “Worldwide Threat Assessment” issued on January 29, 2019 by the US Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, warned against the possibility of a serious virus that could cause “massive” numbers of fatalities, Sarah K. Burris reported for Raw Story in March 2020. According to Coats’ threat assessment, “the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, train international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support” (p. 21). Nevertheless, Burris reported, President Donald Trump and his administration ignored the warnings and refused to take the matter seriously. Coats warned President Trump of the issue but soon after the assessment was documented, Trump fired Dan Coats following reports that the president was eager to “get rid of him.”

As of April 2, 2020, more than 997,000 patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (referred to as Coronavirus) in at least 204 countries and territories, with approximately 50,970 deaths, according to one source tracking the pandemic’s human toll, including more than 236,000 confirmed cases and 5,780 deaths in the United States.

Coats’ Worldwide Threat Assessment further noted that, although the international community has made “tenuous improvements to global health security,” those gains “may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change” (p. 21).

As Burris concluded, “It has become clear that neither Trump nor his administration took the warning seriously.”

Although corporate media, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, had previously covered warnings by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats about Russian cyberattacks as a threat to US security and Trump’s reactions to these warnings, as of March 8, 2020, the corporate news media appear not to have covered DNI Coats’ warnings about the threat of a deadly pandemic or the lack of meaningful response by the Trump administration.

Editor’s Note: Since Raw Story published Burris’s report and Project Censored posted this summary of it, additional independent news reporting has served to deepen this story. On April 1, 2020, The Nation reported that a 100-page Pentagon plan from 2017 anticipated the threat of a novel influenza pandemic. As Ken Klippenstein wrote, “Despite President Trump’s repeated assertions that the Covid-19 epidemic was ‘unforeseen’ and ‘came out of nowhere,’ the Pentagon was well aware of not just the threat of a novel influenza, but even anticipated the consequent scarcity of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds.”


Sarah K. Burris, “Trump Was Warned of a Pandemic ‘That Could Lead to Massive Rates of Death’ by the Intel Director He Fired,” Raw Story, March 8, 2020,

Ken Klippenstein, “Exclusive: The Military Knew Years Ago That a Coronavirus Was Coming,” The Nation, April 1, 2020,

Student Researcher: Dylan Barglof (College of Western Idaho)

Faculty Evaluator: Anna Gamboa (College of Western Idaho)