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After Dismissing Coronavirus Surge, Trump Will Resume Briefings

2020-07-21 14:30:11

But Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, publicly said that the president’s poll numbers were better when he was doing the briefings and that she hoped he would again. Vice President Mike Pence’s team has also wanted him to do more, but the president’s communications aides bristled at the vice president appearing at them when they thought Mr. Trump should be leading the effort. By the end of last week, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Hicks were rethinking their concerns, according to people familiar with the discussions.

“The pandemic is the No. 1 topic of conversation around family dinner tables and Zoom conversations, so the president is smart to ensure his message is getting into those discussions,” said Cliff Sims, a former White House media aide under Mr. Trump. “If we learned anything during the 2016 campaign and in the White House, it’s that he’s always his own best messenger and our ability to shape the debate is always bolstered by having him out front.”

But Democrats scoffed at the notion that the president would handle the briefings any better this time around. “It’s pretty clear that the resumption of briefings is more about Trump feeding his own ego, in an absence of other forums, and sharing his own distorted version of history directly with his base than it is about sharing fact-based updates with the American public,” said Jen Psaki, a White House communications director under President Barack Obama.

The original coronavirus briefings from March to April were made-for-television events, with scientific information provided by public health experts often overshadowed by a confrontational president castigating governors, lawmakers, China, reporters and others he deemed insufficiently grateful to him for his leadership. He used them to defend his administration’s response to the virus and to promote a pet drug as a possible treatment over the advice of his own experts.

Mr. Trump eventually quit holding them after he was widely mocked for suggesting that people might be able to counter the virus by ingesting or injecting disinfectants like bleach, an offhand comment that sent public health agencies scrambling to warn the public not to try such an approach because it could be fatal.

But in recent weeks, the surge of cases has frustrated Mr. Trump’s effort to play down the seriousness of the continuing pandemic. The United States now records more than twice as many cases each day as it did during the height of the daily briefings, and the number of deaths, which had fallen substantially, has begun to rise again as well.

White House officials have said in recent days both that the president is too busy to attend coronavirus task force meetings and that he is “working around the clock” on the virus. But even as hospitals fill up and governors reverse decisions to reopen, Mr. Trump has continued to insist that the virus would simply vanish on its own.


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