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Trump undermines new virus strategy by hiding experts and facts

During a coronavirus news conference, CNN's Kaitlan Collins asks President Donald Trump why he appeared alone without public health experts at his side.

Posted: Jul 23, 2020 2:31 PM
Updated: Jul 23, 2020 2:31 PM

President Donald Trump's new political self-preservation effort to show he has a grip on a pandemic that is killing hundreds of Americans every day is being exposed by his refusal to share the stage with scientific experts -- or the facts.

On a day that laid bare his refashioned campaign strategy, Trump hammered out a tough law-and-order push, escalated a Cold War with China and tried to show he is managing the fight against Covid-19 after weeks of neglect.

The President has been flailing for days, as a vicious surge in infections races across the sunbelt, caused in part by governors who heeded his calls to open states before the pathogen was suppressed.

With one poll showing him down 20 points to Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden on who can best handle the situation, Trump has taken the rare step of performing a partial reversal -- on the wearing of masks -- though he is still reluctant to model one in public. He also decided that outright denial of the worst public health crisis in 100 years was not working and has returned to the White House briefing room to spin the disaster as best he can.

View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling

The anchor of Trump's new, punchier briefings is a scripted opening in which he cherry picks the most hopeful aspects of a pandemic that has destroyed the rhythm of American daily life and turned the economy upside down. Wednesday was yet another tragic day, with another 1,195 new deaths and 71,695 fresh infections.

In his two briefings so far, his rejigged approach seems more like a cosmetic political exercise than an attempt to provide the country with meaningful public health advice as the pandemic gets worse.

And the new tone detected by some political commentators did not survive a Fox News interview in which the President again doubted the value of diagnostic testing, which scientists say is crucial to isolating newly infected patients and stopping the spread of the disease.

Another problem is that the President will not appear alongside public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

"They're briefing me, I'm meeting them. I just spoke to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx is right outside and they're giving me all of everything they know as of this point in time and I'm giving the information to you," Trump said Wednesday.

"I think it's probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well."

Trump, however, went on to make misleading statements that would never have been uttered by a public health expert but that he seems to think are politically helpful. He blamed migrants from Mexico crossing the closed border for causing a spike in cases, along with young people attending anti-racism protests.

The President also claimed that kids with strong immune systems don't bring the coronavirus home and that all schools can open in the fall. He did not provide any scientific evidence for the assertion or explain, for instance, why children who often pick up the flu and colds in class would not be at similar risk for transmitting the coronavirus.

And yet again, Trump claimed falsely that the United States is doing "amazing things" in comparison to other countries as it fights the virus. In fact, the US lags fellow highly industrialized nations in suppressing infection curves and leads the world in infections and deaths.

"The President doesn't want doctors Fauci or Birx there because they are real time fact checkers," Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN's Kate Bolduan.

"Without them he can say things which are either misleading or out and out false," Reiner said, using as an example the President's misleading interpretation of statistics on a positive rate in testing.

"The truth is the truth and the more the public understands, the better the public will adhere to, you know, prudent policy," he said.

,Trump twists science on school openings

Trump's approach to managing the virus -- that tends to put his own political interests ahead of science-based reasoning -- extends to reopening schools, which he wants to do so that the country will look like it's back to some semblance of normality ahead of the fall election.

But experts disagree with his calls.

"He wants to open the schools, regardless of what the science says. And the science is pretty clear. If you open schools in areas or school districts where there's a high level of virus transmissions, say if you were going to do this in Houston today or San Antonio or Phoenix, it will fail," said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University.

"It will fail because not only are the kids transmitting the virus but adults, vendors are going in and out of the schools," Hotez said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

"What will happen within two weeks, teachers will start going into the hospitals, going into ICUs. It'll be bus drivers, cafeteria workers and parents will start getting sick. It's untenable. It's not sustainable."

The President also dwells on the few positive developments amid a grim time as the country battles a virus that has already killed more than 140,000 Americans.

On Wednesday, he touted a new deal with Pfizer to produce and deliver 100 million doses of a vaccine when it becomes available. With an eye on older voters who have cooled on him, according to latest polls, he announced new measures to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Still, for once, and despite much of his presentation being highly misleading, the President did not destroy his own strategy with ill discipline.

He largely avoided getting sucked into ill-tempered clashes with reporters and got out of the encounter after only a few questions. So if his return to the podium is a political tactic rather than a genuine effort to change his approach on a virus he has minimized and mismanaged, he may have at least done himself a modicum of good in the eyes of his campaign team.

Trump's law-and-order pitch to the suburbs

Another prong of the President's refashioned electoral strategy was on display earlier Wednesday when he announced he would "surge" federal law enforcement agents to Chicago and other cities, despite the opposition of local and state officials.

The plan, another way in which Trump has used his executive power to fulfill personal political goals, solidifies his effort to portray Democrats as weak on crime and to create a picture of a nation under siege from radical, anarchistic elements and staggering under what he says are liberal efforts to destroy policing. The move follows the dispatch of federal officials to Portland, Oregon, who have been seen arresting protesters while wearing camouflage uniforms and without identifying their name and rank. Critics have warned that the President is indulging authoritarian tendencies and hyping a law-and-order crisis to discredit Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"We'll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation's children and bring violent perpetrators to justice," Trump said. "We've been doing it and you've been seeing what's happening all around the country."

"We've just started this process and frankly we have no choice but to get involved," the President said, announcing deployments for the FBI, US Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

From Trump's point of view, the effort makes political sense. As Democratic mayors and governors balk at his pressure and say they will not accept Trump's "troops" and "secret police" on their streets, he can accuse them of not taking the safety of Americans seriously. It's a pitch aimed directly at suburban voters who have peeled away from Republicans since the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly hit on law-and-order themes, apparently designed to play on fears of White voters, who Trump thinks see others as an enemy that threatens their vision of traditional American culture.

As a Trump campaign press release put it in an email on Wednesday: "Your family won't be safe in Biden's America."

The Democratic presumptive nominee lashed out at the President in the latest of what are becoming increasingly intense exchanges in a campaign that has lain dormant for months as the pandemic crisis has deepened.

"The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they're from, is absolutely sickening," Biden said at a virtual town hall hosted by the Service Employees International Union.

"No sitting president has ever done this," he said. "Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We've had racists, and they've existed, that tried to get elected president; he's the first one that has."

Trump escalates showdown with China

In another example of the way Trump is using presidential power to bolster a campaign theme, the administration on Wednesday announced the shock closure of China's consulate in Houston, Texas.

The State Department accused Beijing of engaging in massive illegal spying and influence operations for years, but did not say whether there was an individual incident that triggered the move.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been touring Europe seeking to get the support of US allies in a broad front against Beijing.

There is credible evidence to suggest that China has been stealing US intellectual property and has used its espionage services to try to infiltrate US government, military, science and intelligence establishments.

But the new crackdown, which is accelerating a serious deterioration in ties between the established superpower and the rising power, comes as the White House seeks to scapegoat China -- the origin of the novel coronavirus -- to cover up Trump's earlier denials that the pandemic would threaten the US.

But just as he cannot control what happens next with the virus, Trump is now vulnerable to however China might react to the closure of its Houston consulate. While bashing Beijing has long been a tactic in presidential campaigns, it's not clear that all voters will welcome a new epochal clash with a powerful foreign rival -- especially one exacerbated for personal political gain.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Clear
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Angola
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 79°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 80°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 82°
Friday is the beginning for a more summer-like forecast, with more heat and humidity returning to the region.
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