Their response to the Woodward interviews helps highlight it. Paraphrased: “We didn’t want to cause a panic. What were we supposed to do, admit we didn’t have a plan for this?”
Obama administration had plans put in place outlining what the federal government could do in case an epidemic or pandemic broke out. And that’s just a normal thing. George W Bush had to deal with SARS, Obama had to deal with N1H1/Zika/Ebola outbreaks, Trump had to deal with Corona. Outbreaks of disease are just a thing that happens, and part of the president’s job is making sure that when the next president is still settling into the office, they’re not caught off-guard if/when something pops up.
But Trump and his administration have done their best to cut out absolutely anything Obama and his people ever touched, and that includes pandemic response. Trump and his people had no idea what to do.
…but that’s not an acceptable answer in Trumpland. Trump always makes the right decision and does the right thing. And since the only thing they could do was “nothing”, “nothing” had to be the appropriate response. The alternative was admitting (to himself and the world) that he was unprepared and uneducated on this topic.
This is why he’s constantly downplaying the threat of the virus publicly. He called it a hoax. He said it wasn’t any worse than the flu. He said it would go away when summer came and things got hot. Right now he’s saying it’ll go away when things cool down for winter. Who knows what he’ll be saying a month from now – maybe it’ll have been cooked up by Biden working together with China to sabotage his presidency, idk. But always always it’s not a big deal and you don’t need to worry about it – because if you need to worry about it, that meant he was wrong.
This is part of why he’s sabotaging the post office too. Yes, it’s also an attempt at voter suppression by limiting access to safe methods of voting. But then, the post office is most helpful to isolated and rural voters, who bigbox companies like Amazon don’t find profitable to deliver to as much. The USPS keeps places like that supplied, and places like that tend to be Trump country, so why sabotage their ability to vote? It’s because if you need USPS to vote safely, that implies there’s a danger to voting normally. And implying there’s a danger to voting normally is implying the virus is real, and hasn’t gone away, and is still a big problem. And that implies Trump was wrong to downplay it and not do anything.