On Sunday night, Trump held a Rose Garden press briefing on the latest developments on the country’s fight against coronavirus, a near-daily event in the new normal of Washington.
As the number of those sickened and killed by the virus has soared, Trump has increasingly used these press briefings as a chance to vent his frustrations — at governors, the media and anyone else he can think of.
What he did on Sunday night was, somehow, worse — coarser, more detached from reality — than what he has done before. I went through the transcript of the briefing and pulled out the lines you need to see. They’re below.
1.”Appreciate everybody being here, beautiful day in the Rose Garden, tremendous distance between chairs — social distancing.”
“Tremendous distance between chairs.” And away we go!
2. “And as you know, even before this development, we’ve been doing more tests — tests than any other country, anywhere in the world.”
“The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded by the U.S. to COVID-19” — The New York Times, March 28
3. “Let’s see how it works. It may; it may not. But we may have some incredible results.”
Here Trump is referencing experimental drug treatments for coronavirus. But really, this is him talking about his response to every issue that arises during his presidency. It might work. It might not. But it could be incredible.
4. “We have some interesting things will be announced, I think over the next few weeks, but we’ll see what happens.”
Again, classic Trump. He hints at possible medical breakthroughs without offering any evidence. I hope he’s not just bluffing but, if past is prologue, he probably is.
5. “Even though this is different, something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000?”
In which the President of the United States suggests, with zero evidence, that hospitals in New York are somehow stealing masks or purposely asking for too many from the federal government. This is a truly outrageous charge. And deeply disrespectful of the medical professionals on the front lines fighting this virus.
6. “So, somebody should probably look into that, because I just don’t see, from a practical standpoint, how that’s possible to go from that to that.”
“Somebody should probably look into that,” says the President about an accusation he made without any proof.
7. “I hope I didn’t get any of your clients in trouble, but it could be that they are in trouble. So they have to look at that in New York.”
He. Just. Won’t. Stop.
8. “Many of the states are stocked up. Some of them don’t admit it, but they have — we have sent just so much — so many things to them and — including ventilators.”
No big deal, just the President casually accusing states of lying about their medical needs in the midst of a global pandemic. Very normal stuff!
9. “Today I spoke with Wolfgang Puck.”
I did not see that coming! (Trump talked to the chef about how to save restaurants amid the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus.)
10. “Think of it: 151 countries. Somebody said to me today that wasn’t in this particular world — they didn’t know that we had that many countries. A hundred and fifty-one countries. That’s something.”
[Looks directly at camera, Jim Halpert-style]
11. “Something we did very well is, when we stopped the inflow from China at a very early level, that was a good thing to do, a great thing to do. We would have had thousands and thousands of more deaths.”
The US now has more coronavirus cases than any nation in the world.
12. “No, I want the people of New York to check — Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio — that when a hospital that’s getting 10,000 masks goes to 300,000 masks during the same period — and that’s a rapid period — I would like them to check that. Because I hear stories like that all the time.”
So, because he “hear[s] stories like that all the time,” Trump felt comfortable suggesting that New York is lying about their protective medical equipment needs? OK.
13. “So I think people should check that because there’s something going on, whether — it’s not — I don’t think it’s hoarding; I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”
Worse than hoarding? Like, what? Selling them on a black market? Who knows — because Trump never said.
14. “Just like — I’ll never forget the day when a general came and said, “Sir” — my first week in office — ‘we have no ammunition.'”
15. “It was just an aspiration. We actually will be hitting, potentially — and this was with our meeting before — on Easter, we probably — they — well, that could be a peak.”
Trump is rewriting history here. At the time he said he hoped church pews would be full for Easter Sunday he never suggested that was an aspirational goal. He just said it.
16. “So that was an aspirational number. I didn’t say “Easter.” I said, “It would be a great thing, if we could do it by Easter.”
Here’s exactly what Trump said on March 24 in a Fox News town hall in the Rose Garden: “I’d love to have it open by Easter, OK? I would love to have it open by Easter. I will tell you that right now. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
17. “You know, I see things — I see numbers. They don’t matter to me.”
If you don’t think poll numbers matter to Trump, may I refer you to his Twitter feed for the last five years.
18. “I mean, I know insurance companies better than anybody.”
There a lot of things Trump knows “better than anybody.”
19. “I didn’t do that at all. Read the statement. Read the statement. Read what I said. I said we’re going to look into ‘possibly quarantine.’ I didn’t say we’re ‘going to quarantine.'”
The question here was whether Trump regretted threatening a quarantine of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Here’s exactly what Trump said:
“I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.”
20. “So the concept of quarantine was thrown out to me. Really, would love to do it — they would love to do it. And I thought it was too much to do, because the people are doing a great job with it.”
Oh, so the idea of a quarantine was someone else’s idea, eh? And the President didn’t want to do it — despite tweeting out the possibility to his 70+ million followers? Riiiiiiight.
21. “I didn’t say that.”
This is how Trump responded to a question about him telling Sean Hannity that some governors were requesting ventilators they didn’t actually need. Here’s him saying it: “And you know, they’d say, like Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and others that say we want, you know, 30,000 of them, 30,000. All right. Think of this. You know, you go to hospitals, they’ll have one in a hospital. And now, all of a sudden everybody’s asking for these vast numbers.” So, yeah.
22. “Why don’t you act in a little more positive? It’s always trying to ‘get you.'”
Two things here. One, it’s not the media’s job to be “positive.” It’s our job to cover the story and hold people in power to account. Two, it’s not “gotcha” journalism to ask the President why he said what he said last Friday about governors and ventilators.
23. “You didn’t hear me. That’s why you used to work for the Times and now you work for somebody else. Look, let me tell you something: Be nice. Don’t be threatening.”
In which the President of the United States tells an African American female reporter (Yamiche Alcindor) that a) she was removed from The New York Times for asking negative questions (she wasn’t fired, she left to join PBS’ “Newshour”) b) she should be nice (again, not the media’s job) and c) her question was “threatening” (it was wasn’t — it was about what Trump said two days ago). Unreal.
24. “When journalists get up and ask questions that are so threatening — we’re all on the same team.”
I shouldn’t really need to write this but: Holding people in power to account is an act of patriotism.
25. “When I hear facemasks go from 10,000 to 300,000, and they constantly need more, and the biggest man in the business is, like, shocked.”
Just a reminder: The reason mask requests are soaring is because we are dealing with a virus for which humans have no immunity and for which there is no vaccine.
26. “And remember, we started with a system that was broken. For many years, it was broken. And I’m not blaming the last administration.”
[narrator voice] He actually is.
27. “We took over a dead, barren system. We took over a system that was obsolete. It was — it was good for a tiny, little sample of people.”
The key takeaway for Trump in all of this: It’s not his fault! You can’t blame him!
28. “We could have done it on Easter, but there was a good chance that if it’s coming down or if it’s still going up — maybe it’s going to be coming down by then.”
[Jim Halpert stare]
29. “You know, again, because of what we’ve done and because of the fact that we’ve stopped the flow from China so early — because the question is, from a lot of my friends, ‘Why didn’t we just wing it? Why didn’t we just wing it?'”
Really??? Trump’s friends were asking why we didn’t just “wing” our response to a global pandemic?
30. “So you’re going to have tremendous suicides, but you know what you’re going to have more than anything else? Drug addiction. You will see drugs being used like nobody has ever used them before.”
In which the President tries to justify his now-walked-back claim that extended periods of social distancing would destroy the economy and cause more deaths than the virus if left to its own devices. Insanity.
31. “I spoke to great people today that have done a great job. And one day, at the top of their business, they’re celebrity chefs, they’ve got the most successful restaurants, and in one day they have nothing.”
“They’re celebrity chefs.”
32. “Anxiety causes, you know, disease, they say. A lot of people — you’re going to have tremendous.”
So, uh, well, um, OK.
33. “But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.”
The question — from CNN’s Jeremy Diamond — was why Trump had said “if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call” about the nation’s governors last week. There’s video of Trump saying exactly that.
34. “No, I don’t call. No, I don’t call the governor of Washington now.”
So, Trump is saying he didn’t say the thing he did but then admitting that he is actually not calling governors who he doesn’t believe are appreciative enough of the help the federal government is providing? Truly mind-boggling stuff.
35. “I don’t have to call because I’m probably better off not, because we don’t get — he’s a failed presidential candidate. He’s a nasty person. I don’t like the governor of Washington.”
“Modern day presidential”
36. “In 100 years, you could bet your life that he would never be here with CNN and all their cameras, if they’re bad, because we help their ratings.”
Totally false. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s the media’s job to cover — and contextualize — what the President and his advisers are saying and doing. Ratings have zero to do with it. Zero.
37. “Unfortunately, the enemy is death. It’s death. A lot of people are dying, so it’s very unpleasant. It’s a very unpleasant thing to go through.”
This feels like a good place to end.