Update (1855T): Trump’s press conference continued well into the evening, with the president feuding in classic Trump style with CNN reporters asking him questions about a rumor that Trump had withheld aid to certain governors who didn’t show him sufficient respect.
After a few minutes of jousting, Trump slammed CNN as “fake news”, to which a reporter replied “we’re not fake news”, prompting Trump to spout “yes you are, sit down.”
It was an amusing episode.
Asked about the news networks not wanting to cover Trump’s daily press briefings, Trump scoffed, and slammed the media “we’re getting the word about it…and a lot of people aren’t…they should be happy about it but they’re not.” Trump then praised Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. “They’ve been fighting this stuff their whole lives…they don’t want to be stars…the American public they should be the decider…we have Monday Night Football-type ratings…and that’s from the New York Times…and they’re not honest people but that’s okay…that’s what they said.”
“When they don’t want the president of the United States to have a voice…you’re not talking about Democracy any longer.”
* * *
Update (1824ET): Trump has offered a few more thoughts on why he isn’t releasing some 10,000 ventilators to states like New York and Louisiana (states that, Trump’s critics complain, are governed by Democrats). Trump said the government is only holding on to the ventilators for now until the crisis arrives, That apparently leaves room for the government to dole them out to the states that need them in the coming days.
And of course, Trump said he spoke with some of the most respected restaurateurs in the country, and they apparently reminded him that they can’t stay closed forever without significantly more help from the government – or they’re all going to go out of business. As Trump said, he wants to make sure these restaurants “get moving”…but not until after April 30.
Trump also claimed that Humana and Cigna agreed to waive all costs – including copays – for coronavirus-related treatments. “It’s a lot of money they’re waiving,” Trump said, during the Q&A, and said “yeah, I do” when asked if he was calling on other insurers to do the same thing. “This is about death,” Trump said. “I want to thank Cigna and Humana.”
Trump also repeatedly insisted that he now believes the “peak” of the US outbreak will arrive in two weeks which, at the current rate, means millions of cases will have been diagnosed by then.
When asked about why he “threatened” to quarantine New York, Connecticut and New Jersey yesterday, Trump responded with an aggravated denial, with Trump claiming that professionals brought the idea to him, and that he ultimately decided not to do it. “Now we did an advisory, it’s a strong advisory…I think we did a great thing…all I did yesterday was I said we were looking in to it and by the end of the evening I said ‘we’ve decided to go with the advisory’.” Trump said.
“I don’t want to have to give them out then take them back and move them someplace else…we need to move them quickly,” Trump said.
When asked why Florida has had more of its requests for ventilators approved than states like Massachusetts and New York, Trump responded that all states have been taken care of “Florida has been taken care of, Michigan has been taken care of”…Trump said, even though he has had a high-profile feud with the Democratic female governor of Michigan. Massachusetts, meanwhile, is governed by a moderate Republican.
Trump then went on a tirade about how most states have been “very happy” with the White House’s handling and will be “amazed at what they will be able to get” even citing his relationship with John Bel Edwards, “a Democrat if that’s what you’re getting at” in Louisiana and other governors from the south to the northeast. Trump added the deployment of the hospital ships and the Army Corp of Engineers and the National Guard are doing a lot, like opening a hospital in New York City at the Javits Center.
* * *
Update (1815ET): President Trump assured the public that his administration would undo a provision in his tax reform law eliminating writeoffs for entertainment, allowing, as Trump put it, “companies to send people back to restaurants”. It’s unclear how this would help, exactly, and when it would happen.
More importantly, Trump seemed to back away from his push to bring the country back on-line by Easter by saying he would extend the guideline through April 30, the end of April, and roughly three weeks later than the April 12 Easter guideline,
Trump also said the US has ordered dozens of new ventilators, but he also said the federal government still has 10,000 ventilators that it needs to keep on hand for an emergency in case, for example, Louisiana has a terrible problem (which it does, as Trump acknowledged). We suspect this nonsensical remarks where Trump offers no explanation for withholding these ventilators from the states, which could place lives at risk.
* * *
Update (1715ET): Trump just bumped the start time to 530pmET, in typical Trump fashion.
Will be starting The White House news conference at 5:30 P.M. Eastern.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2020
* * *
With the number of new cases and deaths ballooning at a surprisingly rapid pace across the US (but especially in New York, the nation’s biggest hot spot), President Trump and the White House task force (led by VP Mike Pence DHHS Secretary Alex Azar, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Adams and the rest) are holding their daily press briefing at 5pmET, just an hour before futures open.
The event will reportedly take place in the White House Rose Garden.
Watch live below: