Trump Says China May Have Allowed Coronavirus to Spread to Attack Economies

President Donald Trump has alleged—without any evidence—that China may have purposely allowed the coronavirus to spread as a way to damage the economies of other nations.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Trump said during an exclusive interview that China was approaching the end of its own outbreak of the disease when it spread to other nations.

"There is a very good chance it was incompetence. There was a very good chance it was a mistake. And there's a chance that it was intentional," Trump said about how the virus spread, according to a transcript of the conversation.

The president added that China may have wanted to extend its own economic fallout from the virus to competing nations, telling the Journal: "They're saying, Man, we're in a mess. The United States is killing us. Don't forget, my economy during the last year and a half was blowing them away. And the reason is the tariffs."

China has denied that it concealed any information about the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump said in the interview that he had no evidence of such a scheme, saying, "I don't think they would do that.... But you never know. But it has had an impact."

He added, "It's my sense that could have happened. I hope not. And I hope we'll be able to find it out."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment on the president's allegations but did not receive a response before publication.

The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the Chinese government for its handling of its outbreak, saying the country should have acted sooner to contain the virus's spread. When the virus first began spreading widely in the U.S. in March, Trump and other officials in his administration began to allege that the virus originated in a lab in the city of Wuhan. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The United States has surpassed every other nation in both cases and deaths from the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus had infected more than 2.1 million people and killed more than 116,000 as of June 17.

The virus also brought about an economic recession after the shutdown of nonessential businesses nationwide. More than 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance over the past 13 weeks. Since the health crisis began in March, there have been 13 straight weeks where more than 1 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time. Jobless claims remain over seven times higher than they were before the pandemic.

donald trump WSJ interview china coronavirus
President Donald Trump arrives for the signing of an executive order on police reform on June 16. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said China may have purposely spread the coronavirus to destabilize other economies. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Trump also told the Journal that testing for the coronavirus was "overrated" and that people were wearing face masks not for safety but to make a political statement against him. He also expressed concern that people fixing and touching their masks were more likely to be infected.

His comments about masks, which the federal government advises can help prevent spreading of the virus, come before his first in-person rally since the pandemic broke out. On Saturday, Trump will hold a gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite the warnings of health experts and lawmakers.

The venue where Trump is set to speak can hold just under 20,000. Attendees won't be required to social distance or wear masks. But the Trump re-election team said it will check the temperature of every person entering. Plus, attendees have to agree not to sue the campaign if they contract the virus.