Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asks questions during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in this May 6, 2020, file photo. Credit: Greg Nash / AP

U.S. Sen. Angus King took to Twitter on Thursday to slam President Donald Trump for downplaying the coronavirus publicly despite knowing how fast-spreading and lethal COVID-19 could be.

“President Trump knew the scope and scale of the coronavirus pandemic before it struck. He could have warned the American people; could have changed behaviors and told people to take this seriously; could have slowed the virus’s spread. He didn’t,” King wrote in a series of tweets. 

“The President argued that he was ‘downplaying’ this crisis to prevent panic, which makes no sense at all. We don’t consider hurricane warnings to be ‘causing panic’ — because it’s the role of the government to inform us, so we can make decisions based on the threats we face.”

The junior senator from Maine, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats, hit the president amid revelations from an upcoming book from veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump said he was aware of the dangers posed by the virus, even as he downplayed them publicly. The book has refocused attention on Trump’s handling of the virus, a subject he has tried to shift away from less than two months before Election Day, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is in a heavily targeted re-election race in 2020, had not commented publicly on Trump’s remarks as of Thursday night. Her office did not respond to a Wednesday request for comment. She did not take questions in Washington on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to CNN.

King described Trump’s actions on Thursday as “infuriating” and “heartbreaking.”

“This was an abject failure of leadership, and the full extent of this failure grows more clear with each passing day and each new death. Infuriating, and heartbreaking,” King tweeted.

Trump admitted on Thursday via Twitter that he had been warned about the threat posed by the virus but defended his comments, saying that he wanted to avoid creating panic.

“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months,” Trump wrote. “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. Calm, no panic!”

Woodward has defended his decision to hold off by saying he needed time to make sure Trump’s private comments were true. 

On Wednesday, Trump called Woodward’s book, titled “Rage,” a “political hit job” and said that he wanted to “keep the country calm.”

King has criticized Trump before, most recently in August, when he said that the Trump Administration needed to do more to guard against Russian interference in the 2020 elections. King said that Trump’s 2016 election effort opened “the door to a devastating Russian active measures operation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.