WASHINGTON — President Trump turned Monday’s every day coronavirus process pressure briefing into an aggressive protection of his personal halting response to the pandemic and used a campaign-style video to denounce criticism that he moved too slowly to restrict the lethal unfold of the virus.
For practically an hour, Mr. Trump vented his frustration after weekend information studies that his personal public well being officers have been ready by late February to advocate aggressive social distancing measures, however that the president didn’t announce them till a number of weeks later — an important delay that allowed the virus to unfold.
Mr. Trump broadly mischaracterized an article on his response to the coronavirus, revealed over the weekend in The New York Occasions, repeatedly insisting that america had only a few instances of the virus in early January — six weeks earlier — and angrily mocking a suggestion that was by no means made: that he ought to have ordered all colleges and companies shut that month.
“I’m supposed to shut down the best economic system within the historical past of the world and we don’t have one case confirmed in america?” he mentioned, his voice laced with sarcasm.
Mr. Trump started the briefing by inviting Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s main infectious illness knowledgeable and a member of the coronavirus process pressure, to the lectern so he may “make clear” feedback he made Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” On the information program, he mentioned that extra lives may have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.
With the president towering over him, Dr. Fauci said his answer to a hypothetical question got him “into some difficulty” and insisted that Mr. Trump had approved aggressive social distancing measures as soon as he and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, urged him to do so.
“The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president” to put in place strong mitigation measures, Dr. Fauci said, “the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation.”
Mr. Trump — who on Sunday reposted a message on Twitter saying, “Time to #FireFauci” — insisted that he had no plans to take away Dr. Fauci from his crew and was merely elevating another person’s opinion that he didn’t share.
“I retweeted any individual. I don’t know, they mentioned, ‘Hearth.’ Doesn’t matter,” Mr. Trump advised reporters.
“I like him. I believe he’s terrific,” the president mentioned. “Not everyone is pleased with Anthony. Not everyone is pleased with everyone.”
Begun as a daily replace on the virus by Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s prime public well being officers, the every day night briefing has largely been became a prolonged infomercial starring Mr. Trump, who brags about his administration’s efforts, mocks his critics and berates reporters.
However even by these requirements, Monday’s briefing stood out. As a substitute of starting together with his every day recitation of details concerning the virus response, the president first launched Dr. Fauci after which delivered a ready protection of his actions, and an assault on the information studies about them.
Lashing out at what he referred to as “a pretend newspaper” that writes “pretend tales,” Mr. Trump lowered the lights within the White Home briefing room to play a video exhibiting plenty of Fox Information hosts taking part in down the risk from the virus and governors lauding his actions to assist them cope with the crush of hospitalizations.
The video — which the president mentioned was produced by a social media crew in “a interval of lower than two hours” — included video clips of Mr. Trump taking motion to confront the virus, and didn’t embrace any of the various situations when the president mentioned the virus was “underneath management” and would “miraculously disappear” with little effort.
Set to music, the video largely passed over February and early March, when public well being consultants say the administration failed to supply sufficient testing for the virus and didn’t act rapidly sufficient to advertise social distancing and forestall its unfold.
At one level within the video, Maggie Haberman, a Occasions White Home correspondent, is heard commenting on the president’s determination on Jan. 31 to halt some flights from China in an interview with The Occasions’s podcast “The Day by day.”
“On the finish of the day, it was most likely efficient, as a result of it did truly take a reasonably aggressive measure in opposition to the unfold of the virus,” Ms. Haberman mentioned within the interview. “The issue is, it was one of many final issues that he did for a number of weeks.”
Within the video, Ms. Haberman’s final sentence was edited out, as was her description of the choice as Mr. Trump’s “mission achieved” second.
Ms. Haberman was one in all six writers of the Occasions article that Mr. Trump mentioned was “pretend.”
“We’re assured within the accuracy of our reporting, which was primarily based on verified paperwork and quite a few on-the-record interviews,” mentioned Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for The Occasions. “The details in our story aren’t in dispute.”
Earlier than the briefing ended, the Democratic Nationwide Committee issued an announcement saying that the president “commandeered the briefing to run marketing campaign propaganda to assuage his small ego and pathetically attempt to cowl up for his personal failed response.”
Mr. Trump’s presentation was the continuation of a weekend-long effort to rebut criticism of his sluggish preliminary response to the pandemic.
The president tweeted repeatedly on Saturday after the Occasions article was first revealed on-line, and he continued on Sunday, after Dr. Fauci’s interview on “State of the Union,” which angered lots of Mr. Trump’s allies and supporters.
Requested by Jake Tapper, the present’s host, whether or not “lives may have been saved” if social distancing had been began in late February slightly than in mid-March, Dr. Fauci mentioned they might have.
“I imply, clearly, you may logically say that if you happen to had a course of that was ongoing and also you began mitigation earlier, you may have saved lives,” Dr. Fauci mentioned.
The president’s failure to announce aggressive mitigation efforts till mid-March though prime well being officers, together with Dr. Fauci, had concluded a number of weeks earlier that it could quickly be time to embrace such measures is taken into account a essential mistake within the effort to comprise the coronavirus.
However at Monday’s briefing, Dr. Fauci mentioned his response was taken out of context as affirmation of the Occasions investigation that reported that the president was warned concerning the potential for a pandemic however that lack of planning led to a halting response.
“As occurs on a regular basis, there have been interpretations of that response to a hypothetical query,” Dr. Fauci mentioned. “I assumed it could be good for me to make clear as a result of I didn’t have an opportunity to make clear.”
Dr. Fauci bristled when a reporter requested if he was making the clarifying assertion voluntarily, implying that he was put as much as it underneath stress from Mr. Trump.
“Every thing I do is voluntary, please,” he mentioned. “Don’t even indicate that.”