With US coronavirus deaths officially passing 200,000, journalist and author Bob Woodward has told RTÉ News that he views Donald Trump's handling of the crisis as shocking, tragic and embarrassing.

In Mr Woodward's new book 'Rage', the US President admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic.

"I wanted to always play it down," Mr Trump said in an interview for the book in March.

"I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he added.

Mr Trump has dismissed the new book as "another political hit job" and said if he had downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a "frenzy".

"I don't want people to be frightened," he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's US election podcast 'States of Mind', Bob Woodward said Mr Trump was disconnected from reality in a radical and tragic way.

"200,000 Americans have died. It's the most of any country. The failure of leadership is shocking, tragic and quite frankly I'm embarrassed for President Trump that he's failed in such a grotesque way," Mr Woodward said.

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On Saturday, the US President is expected to name his nominee to the US Supreme Court following the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The confirmation process is expected to lead to a major political row between Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate and Bob Woodward believes it could benefit Donald Trump ahead of the election.

"The virus is what he failed on, so to shift the spotlight to the Supreme Court nomination gives him a big advantage. His base loves it and Evangelical Christians see it as very important to get a new conservative justice on the Supreme Court", Mr Woodward said.

The woman who is nominated to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg could serve for decades.

"The stakes are giant. There's been a lot of criticism of Republicans for pushing this through but I'm not surprised at all," Mr Woodward said.

"In his first term, President Trump would have put three conservative justices on the Supreme Court. That's an astonishing achievement as far as he sees it but an astonishing disaster as Democrats and a lot of other people in this country would see it."