Trump daily press briefing: Funding cuts for WHO, blame for China, and more questions than answers

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Donald Trump moved his coronavirus press briefing outdoors today, sparing reporters the close and potentially dangerous confines of the White House briefing room.

Unfortunately, the president did not spare them from his attempts at revisionist history as he continued to look to place blame for the magnitude of the pandemic in the United States after his now-well documented failures to heed warnings about the dangers he had been warned about in intelligence reports beginning as early as last November.

Today, Trump aimed the blame both at the World Health Organization (WHO) — the United Nations agency dedicated to international public health initiatives — and at China, as CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale and Vox reporter Aaron Rupar live-tweeted his remarks.

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Trump announced that he would be cutting American financial support to the World Health Organization until his administration can conduct a thorough review of their actions during the early days of the pandemic’s outbreak in China.

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Meanwhile, the president managed to continue to mischaracterize his own past actions towards China, denying that he had ever praised the country for their transparency in handling the crisis, despite the public record on Twitter.

The sheer amount of time that Trump spent shifting blame from his own missteps to the WHO and China today demonstrates how desperate he is to move the conversation away from his extravagant claims of total authority during yesterday’s briefing.

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The president continued to use the briefing to spread misinformation, including his insistence that China is now paying billions in tariffs to the United States due to his trade policies when any importer of goods knows that is the receiving party (ultimately the American consumers) who pay tariffs and not the manufacturers and shippers of the taxed goods.

The most unusual thing about today’s briefing — which devolved into a droning litany of corporations cooperating with the federal government in addressing the crisis and a promise to build more ventilators than the world has ever seen before — was the fact that it was primarily a Trump monologue with neither Vice President Pence or the senior health officials on the pandemic task force updating the press with any new information or statistics on the spread of the virus in the US or the number of new fatalities that have occurred.

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Trump’s eagerness to reopen the economy was apparent, but after being roundly accused of imperial ambitions after his claims of total authority yesterday, he went out of his way to lay all responsibilities for the decisions to reopen the local schools and businesses at the feet of state governors.

The president revealed what perhaps could be his most urgent motivation for reopening the economy — and how he has been spending his leisure time — when he lamented being forced to watch reruns on sports channels,

After his extended speech, Trump took a few questions from reporters, including an exchange that, while not quite as openly hostile as yesterday’s tantrum, still dripped with the defensiveness that one would expect after making so many obviously challengeable statements.

Trump doesn’t even pretend to care about social niceties at this point.

The best thing that can be said about today’s briefing was that it was relatively short compared to yesterday’s marathon session.

As these exercises in excuses, blame, and nostalgia for Trump’s past claimed economic successes continue, the amount of relevant new information seems to decrease with each briefing.

Perhaps even more than an end to social distancing, many people are looking forward to the day when we won’t have to listen to his braggadocious bloviating on a daily basis. That will be the day that the biggest crisis in this country will have ended.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Daniel Dale at CNN and by Aaron Rupar at Vox.

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Vinnie Longobardo

Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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