Donald Trump again held a press briefing focused on the coronavirus crisis, and he again went solo: No Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House task force on the pandemic, and no medical experts.
Asked by CNN’s Kaitlin Collins on Wednesday why they were not present, Trump said, “They are briefing me. I am meeting them. I just spoke to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci. Dr. [Deborah] Birx is right outside. And they are giving me everything they know as of this point in time and I am giving the information to you, and it seems to be a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well.”
Fauci is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Birx is the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House task force.
On Tuesday, Trump held his first coronavirus briefing since April, acknowledging the rising number of cases around the country means that the pandemic “may get worse before it gets better,” while encouraging Americans to wear masks and socially distance. Like his briefing today, the president appeared alone at the lectern.
That is a contrast to the briefings last spring, when figures like Fauci and Birx, along with Pence and others, would give remarks and answer questions from reporters.
Trump said the medical experts are “very much involved. The relationships are all very good.”
There has been much attention to the friction between the White House and Fauci, who has become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right as a ubiquitous medical voice on the crisis. Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, published an op-ed in USA Today discrediting Fauci, and the president told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the infectious diseases doctor was “a little bit of an alarmist.”
Wednesday’s briefing also was notable for its length — 22 minutes, a contrast to some of the marathons from the spring, which stretched to more than two hours. The abbreviated format left little time for the president to get into tussles with reporters.
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With Trump’s poll numbers sagging, including on the question of how he’s handling the coronavirus crisis, his return to the briefings is a way for him to garner the spotlight at a more opportune time: the early evening, just as broadcast and cable news networks are leading into their evening newscasts and signature nightly shows. Earlier this week, Trump boasted of getting “record numbers watching.”
The president also touted a new deal that the administration reached with Pfizer for the delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Although the vaccines have not been found safe an effective, the idea is to get production in place so that there can be a speedy deployment once that happens.
Trump also did have a chance to make one of his superlative declarations. A reporter had asked him about Joe Biden’s comment from earlier in the day, in which he said that Trump was the first racist to get elected president.
After talking about employment, opportunity zones and criminal justice reform, Trump responded, “I’ve said this and I say it openly, and not a lot of people dispute it, I have done more for Black Americans that anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close.”
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