Donald Trump made more questionable claims on Friday about his administration’s response to the pandemic – but, yet again, without providing data to support his claims about how many lives his team has saved.
He again claimed his government has “saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” before inflating that claim to first 1m then 1.5m then 2.1m then 2.5m lives saved.
After weeks ago saying up to 200,000 Americans likely would pass away from the coronavirus, then saying around 60,000 people would die, the president on Friday again revised his death toll estimate.
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“Hopefully we’re going to come in under that 100,000 lives lost,” he said before leaving the White House for a weekend at Camp David.
The president’s remarks came as the number of confirmed cases in the United States approached 1.1m with 64,200 deaths, according to The Johns Hopkins University.
Moments, later Mr Trump told reporters as “Chopper Talk” returned, his wild question-and-answer sessions over Marine One’s idling engines on the White House’s South Lawn, for the second consecutive day that he is considering new tariffs on Chinese products to punish the Asian giant for what he claims is its covering up that the Covid-19 virus had gone public on its soil.
He also again criticised GOP Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, whom Mr Trump says went too far with his order to reopen that state, which could now be a 2020 presidential election swing state.
“I want to see us open safely. But I didn’t like the spas and tattoo parlors. And I wasn’t thrilled about that. I said nothing about Georgia other than that. I like the states opening, they will be opening,” the president said.
What’s more, he again was asked about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who reportedly has fallen ill after an undisclosed surgery. “I don’t want to talk about it,” the American commander in chief said of the man he once threatened with nuclear weapons but now claims to “love.”
He spoke after his new press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, formally briefed reporters. She vowed to never lie at the podium, repeated his claims about China and the coronavirus, and repeated his charges that the FBI was out to get his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, no matter what their investigation of him turned up.
He also departed the White House for the first time since a long weekend in Florida in early March as his poll numbers against his presumptive general election foe and approval ratings both have taken a downward turn.
One Quinnipiac University poll taken earlier this month shows 52 per cent of older voters disapproving of Mr Trump’s handling of the outbreak; that’s up from 48 per cent the previous month.
More broadly, Quinnipiac this month found seniors nationally favour former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, over Mr Trump by a wide margin, 55 per cent to 40 per cent.
But, in a Thursday morning tweet, the president, as he often does with what he perceives as bad news, dismissed all 2020 polls, writing: “FAKE POLLING, just like 2016 (but worse)!”
That was part of a revised White House communications strategy to have the president focus more on what his administration is doing to help states get the country’s economy open again — and his own re-election campaign.
He held only one daily coronavirus press briefing, on Monday, instead holding more shorter events during which he took questions from reporters and giving afternoon remarks, also taking questions.
Such quick-fire back-and-forth sessions give the president more control over the questioning as he seems more inclined to interrupt journalists or move on than when at the briefing room podium.
At Camp David, Ms McEnany said the president will meet with staff and conduct phone calls with other world leaders. The topic of what she called a “working weekend” will be the Covid-19 pandemic.