After lying about it on Sunday, Trump on Monday repeats claim that New York asked for more ventilators than it will need

Speaking with the coronavirus task force in the White House Rose Garden on Sunday, March 29, President Donald Trump lied to PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor that he didn’t say that some equipment governors are requesting for their coronavirus responses is not actually needed (he had in fact said that to Fox’s Sean Hannity.)

The following day, Trump did a 54-minute interview on Fox & Friends, and he repeated his claim that some medical equipment requested by New York and other states won’t be needed, despite reports of widespread shortages of medical supplies, especially ventilators.

Predictably, none of the show hosts questioned him on his contradictory statements. 


DONALD TRUMP (PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES): We delivered 4,000 ventilators to New York to their warehouse which happens to be located, which is interesting, in Edison, New Jersey. It was signed off, they were delivered, and they weren’t used. And we said a number of days later, why aren’t you using these ventilators? I don’t know what happened but we delivered thousands of them and we’ve delivered them to a lot of people. You know, there’s a whole question about that. I think New York should be fine, based on the numbers that we see, they should have more than enough.
I mean, I’m hearing stories that they’re not used or they’re not used right but what we find anywhere from two to four thousand that have been sent and aren’t used, you know, we’ve done a job. Now we’re still getting more ventilators. We’re going to have — after this is over, we’ll be selling, they will be selling ventilators for $1 a piece. We’ll have a lot of them. But, you know, they have to build them because for the most part, the whole world is short on ventilators.

On March 28, The Washington Post reported that a recent batch of medical supplies sent from an emergency federal stockpile fell far short of what state leaders have requested — Massachusetts and Maine received about 17% and 5%, respectively, of protective gear they requested, and Colorado got enough supplies “for only one full day of statewide operations.” In contrast, Florida — home to a pro-Trump governor and electorate — is receiving three times the supplies it requested. (The Post did note however that aid disbursement does “not appear to follow discernible political or geographic lines.”)

Throughout March, Fox shows — that Trump obsessively watches — engaged in sensationalist coverage blaming Democratic-leaning states for the viral spread of COVID-19. One particular focal point was Trump favorite Tucker Carlson speculating that homeless people and their “filth” are to blame for spreading the virus in California. Trump also demanded on March 27 that governors should be grateful for any assistance the federal government provides. The same day Hannity said that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should stop “whining, bitching, and complaining” about a lack of medical supplies and instead “thank Donald Trump” for the help.

[Media Matters]

Trump Bashes CNN’s Jim Acosta at Coronavirus Presser: ‘I Could Cause Panic Much Better Than Even You’

President Donald Trump continued on Monday what is becoming a tradition at his daily coronavirus press conference: lacing into White House reporters.

At his Monday presser in the Rose Garden, Trump selected CNN’s Jim Acosta for a question. The CNN senior White House correspondent asked Trump about his previous comments downplaying the threat of the coronavirus.

“What do you say to Americans who believe that you got this wrong?” Acosta asked.

Trump defended his past statements, claiming they were “all true” and the product of his efforts to “keep the country calm.”

The president then dropped an odd claim: “I don’t want panic in the country. I could cause panic much better than even you. I would make you look like a minor league player. But you know what? I don’t want to do that. I want to have our country be calm and strong and fight and win and it will go away.”

Trump then started attacking CNN for Acosta’s question, which he deemed “nasty” and “snarky.” (He would, later in the press conference, call a question from PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor as “snarky” as well.)

[Mediaite]

Trump Berates Reporter, Calls Her ‘Threatening’ For Asking About Comments He Made on Coronavirus

President Donald Trump berated PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor for a question she asked, at Sunday’s press conference on the coronavirus, regarding his war of words with U.S. governors.

In response, Trump bashed Alcindor in personal terms, billing her question as “threatening.”

“I have two questions,” the PBS reporter started. “The first is, you’ve said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don’t need.”

Trump cut in: “I didn’t say that.”

“You said it on Sean Hannity’s Fox News — you said that you might…” Alcindor replied before being interrupted.

“Why don’t you people act…why don’t you act in a little more positive?” Trump said. “It’s always trying to get you, get you. And you know what, that’s why nobody trusts the media anymore.”

“Excuse me, you didn’t hear me,” he continued, as Alcindor attempted to continue her question. “That’s why you used to work for Times, and now you work for somebody else. Look, let me tell you something, be nice. Don’t be threatening.”

“Be nice. Go ahead,” Trump added.

“My question is, how is that going to impact how you fill these orders for ventilators or masks?” Alcindor asked.

“We’re producing a tremendous number of ventilators,” Trump stated. “We’re doing a great job on it.”

Later in the exchange, Trump again called Alcindor’s question “threatening,” while also calling her a “fine journalist.”

“You know, when journalists get up and you’re a journalist, a fine journalist and ask questions that are so threatening, we’re all on the same team,” Trump stated.

Alcindor replied, “I was quoting you directly from your interview with Sean Hannity.”

Trump did make the comments that Alcindor asked him about. In an interview with Hannity this week, the president said of governors: “A lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they will need.”

The PBS correspondent attempted to ask her second question, but Trump said, “That’s enough” and a White House staffer removed the microphone from Alcindor. It was later returned to her by CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump moves the coronavirus goal posts, pre-spinning 100,000 deaths as ‘a very good job’

On Feb. 26, when there were 15 reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, President Trump predicted the number of cases would soon be “down to close to zero.”

On March 5, he hailed the fact that there were about 3,000 deaths worldwide but only 11 in the United States.

On March 9, he noted that there were just 22 U.S. deaths and compared the virus to the seasonal flu, which has killed 37,000 people this year.

On March 13, he said the 2009 swine flu had killed 14,000 people in the United States and called the Obama administration’s response to it “a disaster.”

On Sunday night, the same president set the goal posts for his administration’s response to the coronavirus in a very different place. In a White House briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump referenced new data from his task force and said that between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths would represent a victory over the coronavirus.

In doing so, Trump seemed to suddenly embrace coronavirus projections that he had previously shrugged off and downplayed. Rather than put an optimistic spin on what lies ahead, he instead sought to use the most dire projections to pre-spin his administration’s response as a success.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported, Trump pointed no fewer than 16 times to the most dire projections of 2 million or more U.S. deaths in the Sunday briefing. This was most prominently projected in an Imperial College London study that spurred a more aggressive response in the United States and Britain two weeks ago.

“So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this,” Trump said. “And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 — it’s a horrible number, maybe even less — but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.”

Trump added, “But to point to up to 2.2 million deaths and maybe even beyond that, I’m feeling very good about what we did last week.”

As The Post’s William Booth reported when the Imperial College London study came out, that 2.2 million figure was a worst-case scenario in which virtually no precautions were taken — and Trump, to his credit, acknowledged that at one point Sunday.

The number was halved if the two countries were more aggressive:If Britain and the United States pursued more-ambitious measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, to slow but not necessarily stop the epidemic over the coming few months, they could reduce mortality by half, to 260,000 people in the United Kingdom and 1.1 million in the United States.

But it was significantly lower for Britain if the most aggressive steps were taken:Finally, if the British government quickly went all-out to suppress viral spread — aiming to reverse epidemic growth and reduce the case load to a low level — then the number of dead in the country could drop to below 20,000. To do this, the researchers said, Britain would have to enforce social distancing for the entire population, isolate all cases, demand quarantines of entire households where anyone is sick, and close all schools and universities — and do this not for weeks but for 12 to 18 months, until a vaccine is available.

As Booth noted, the model didn’t provide a number for the United States in the case of the most aggressive response. But if you apply the same percentage-wise decline to both Britain and the United States — as the study did between the worst-case scenario and the middle option — it would be about 85,000 deaths in the United States. That’s pretty close to what Trump is now aiming for.

Whether that would actually be the victory that Trump says it would be is subjective. But it’s notable that he’s now playing up those projections, after he spent the initial weeks of the outbreak suggesting the situation was “under control” and floating the idea that the virus could suddenly, miraculously disappear. The number of deaths he’s now talking about would be substantially higher than the seasonal flu and swine flu numbers he has repeatedly compared the current situation with — and in the latter case argued signified a failed response.

The swine flu, of course, was significantly less deadly than the coronavirus. But that didn’t stop Trump from making a comparison that has now turned out to be rather shortsighted. The flu comparison also was faulty from the start because the mortality rate and the transmission rate have been shown to be substantially lower.

The problem with setting the goal posts for your own success in the middle of a crisis is that there is so much you don’t know, and you can wind up setting an expectation that will later suggest you didn’t take things seriously enough or that your response was a failure. But Trump did it again Sunday — albeit in a significantly less optimistic way.

[Washington Post]

Trump touts his ‘astounding’ TV ratings, compares his coronavirus press briefings to ‘The Bachelor’

The silver lining for the Trump administration during this coronavirus pandemic: It makes for fabulous television, apparently. A real blockbuster. Must-see TV! Like, we’re talking “The Bachelor” and “Monday Night Football” ratings, according to data cited by the president.

In fact, “numbers are continuing to rise,” Trump tweeted, though he didn’t clarify whether he was referring to the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. or viewers of his press conferences.

Here’s his full thread:

Trump was pointing to an article from the New York Times but didn’t mention the primary angle of that story, which focused on whether networks should even air his addresses to the media because of the risk of the president spreading of false or misleading information.

[MarkerWatch]

In Exchange for Aid, Trump Wants Praise From Governors He Can Use in Campaign Ads

As he increasingly tries to shovel blame for the shortage of medical supplies onto the governors of states with densely populated areas that are suffering the most from the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump was asked on Friday what more he wants them to do. It was, he said, “very simple: I want them to be appreciative.”

Trump contrasted those two Democratic governors, who have been blunt about the federal government’s failings, with two others who have appealed to the president’s vanity in an attempt to get his help. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has been “appreciative,” Trump said. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, had also spoken well of him, Trump noted. “I appreciate his nice words,” the president said. “I really appreciate it.”

Trump’s choice of those two governors was probably not coincidental. Earlier on Friday, his reelection campaign unveiled a schmaltzy new ad — entitled, of all things, “Hope” — that cast his response to the pandemic in heroic terms, and featured video of both governors praising him.

While Trump approved Newsom’s request to declare the coronavirus outbreak in California a major disaster within hours of the governor asking on Sunday, freeing federal funds, the president failed to respond to a similar request from Whitmer on Thursday. Instead, he belittled her in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night. “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from — you know who I’m talking about — from Michigan,” Trump told Hannity. “She is a new governor and it’s not been pleasant.”

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot,” Trump complained. “Now she wants a declaration of emergency and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that,” Trump said.

Whitmer responded to Trump appearing to not even know her name with a Twitter plea for the personal protective equipment and other medical equipment the state desperately needs from the national strategic stockpile. “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me,” she wrote. “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it.”

The governor told WWJ-AM in Detroit on Friday morning that she had been trying to get on the phone with Trump at about the same time he was lambasting her in a call to Hannity. “I reached out to the White House last night, asked for a phone call with the president,” she said, but never heard back.

Earlier in the week, Whitmer told a local radio station that one hospital in her state had received a shipment from the federal government last week with just 747 masks, 204 gowns, 64 face shields and 40,467 gloves. “With the exception of the gloves, that allotment of PPE didn’t cover one shift,” she said.

On Friday, the governor told CNN that, after Trump had asked governors to procure their own medical supplies, her state had placed a large number of orders — only to be told later by suppliers that they had been instructed to send the items to the federal government instead.

A short time later, Trump used the White House briefing on the public health emergency to vent more at Whitmer and Inslee. He concluded his rant by saying that he had advised Vice President Mike Pence, the head of his coronavirus task force, to not even bother speaking with them. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,” the president said.

“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said of refusing to speak to the governors of two American states during a global pandemic.

Before calling it a day on Friday, Trump approved major disaster declarations for South Carolina and Puerto Rico, but not Michigan.

He then took out his iPhone and tried to escape blame for the outbreak in Michigan, which has already killed 92 people, by tweeting insults at the governor. “I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic,” the president wrote. “Yet your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!”

Trump’s apparent demand that the governors of U.S. states do him a political favor, though — by praising his response to the crisis on television, in exchange for him unlocking federal aid — strongly echoed the scheme he was impeached for last year. In that case, Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to coerce its president into agreeing to go on CNN and announce a sham investigation of Joe Biden, his likely rival in the November election.

In fact, the situation with Michigan’s governor is almost identical to a hypothetical the legal scholar Pamela Karlan asked members of the Judiciary Committee to consider during the impeachment hearings in December.

Update: Saturday, March 28, 5:55 p.m. EDT
On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reported on Twitter that she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and thanked the White House for declaring a major disaster declaration for Michigan, freeing up federal assistance for the state, two days after it was requested. She also thanked the FEMA for a new shipment of 112,000 N95 masks to her state’s emergency operations center.

[Intercept]

Trump downplays need for ventilators as New York begs to differ

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York says his state needs tens of thousands of ventilators to respond to the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump doesn’t believe him.

Speaking with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night, Trump again minimized the impact of the infectious outbreak in the United States, casting doubt on the demand for so many of the respiratory devices in hospitals on the front lines of the disease.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he said. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

New York has become the new epicenter America’s public health crisis, as health care workers struggle to treat rocketing numbers of patients with diminishing supplies, including masks, gowns and ventilators. In severe cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, the machines can allow patients to breathe with incapacitated lungs — a common outcome of the disease.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in a news briefing on Thursday that she was told New York had enough ventilators to meet current needs. While there may be shortages in urban areas like New York City, she said, there are parts of the state “that have lots of ventilators and other parts of New York state that don’t have any infections right now.”

“Over a thousand or two thousand ventilators that have not been utilized yet,” Birx said. “Please, for the reassurance of people around the world, to wake up this morning and look at people talking about creating DNR situations — do not resuscitate situations for patients — there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion.”

But during his daily news conference on Tuesday, Cuomo had said that the state would need a minimum of 30,000 ventilators to be able to respond to the climax of the outbreak, which is predicted to hit the state in about two weeks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had delivered only 400 ventilators, Cuomo said, although the Trump administration announced later in the day that it would ship 4,000 more from the federal stockpile.

“What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo asked reporters, angrily accusing the administration of “missing the magnitude of the problem.”

“You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” he said.

By Thursday, Cuomo said the state had begun converting several thousand anesthesia machines into ventilators and approved the “splitting” of ventilators between two patients — a practice the governor said was “not ideal, but we believe it’s workable.”

“We are talking to the federal government about more ventilators” and still “shopping for ventilators, ourselves,” Cuomo said, adding that stockpiles of ventilators were located “all across the state” to deploy to regional hospitals.

But “the number of ventilators we need is so astronomical,” Cuomo warned, pegging the “apex number” of ventilators that could be required in New York at 40,000. The governor said New York is currently in possession of 12,000 ventilators, and he did not know when the state would reach peak demand.

“We don’t have an estimate for when we would get there,” Cuomo said, “and hopefully, we never do.”

[Politico]

EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws amid coronavirus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.  

The temporary policy, for which the EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”

Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it a moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and an abdication of the agency’s duty. 

“This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was,” she wrote in a statement to The Hill.

The EPA has been under pressure from a number of industries, including the oil industry, to suspend enforcement of a number of environmental regulations due to the pandemic.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. 

In a 10-page letter to the EPA earlier this week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) asked for a suspension of rules that require repairing leaky equipment as well as monitoring to make sure pollution doesn’t seep into nearby water.

Other industries had also asked to ignite the “force majeure” clauses of any legal settlements they had signed with the EPA, allowing for an extension on deadlines to meet various environmental goals in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

But Giles and others say the memo signed Thursday goes beyond that request, giving industries board authority to pollute with little oversight from the agency. 

“Incredibly, the EPA statement does not even reserve EPA’s right to act in the event of an imminent threat to public health,” Giles said. 

“Instead, EPA says it will defer to states, and ‘work with the facility’ to minimize or prevent the threat. EPA should never relinquish its right and its obligation to act immediately and decisively when there is threat to public health, no matter what the reason is. I am not aware of any instance when EPA ever relinquished this fundamental authority as it does in this memo.”

The memo says companies should try to minimize “the effects and duration of any noncompliance” with environmental laws and should also keep records of their own noncompliance, along with identifying how the coronavirus was a factor.The EPA on Friday pushed back against characterization of the memo as a waiver of environmental rules. “During this extraordinary time, EPA believes that it is more important for facilities to ensure that their pollution control equipment remains up and running and the facilities are operating safely, than to carry out routine sampling and reporting,” agency spokeswoman Andrea Woods told The Hill by email. “If a facility has exceedances of limits on pollution the policy does not offer any no action assurance. We retain all our authorities and will exercise them appropriately. It is a temporary policy and will be terminated when this crisis is past.”

Critics say it’s not unreasonable to refrain from environmental enforcement on a case-by-case basis when companies are unable to comply with the letter of the law, but many were alarmed by the breadth of Thursdays memo.

“It is not clear why refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that continue to operate and keep their employees on the production line will no longer have the staff or time they need to comply with environmental laws,” Eric Schaeffer, a former director of civil enforcement at the EPA who is now with the Environmental Integrity Project, wrote in a letter signed by a number of environmental groups in anticipation of the memo.

The letter writers also criticized the requests from the API, arguing nearby communities would face prolonged exposure to a number of air and water pollutants that might be expelled through oil production — something they say would have “a very specific impact on public health and safety.”

The diminished compliance requirements for industry comes at a time when the EPA has refused to budge on deadlines for comments as they proceed with a number of deregulatory actions.

Environmental and public health groups had argued that those with science and health backgrounds who would normally weigh in on such regulations have been pulled into the coronavirus fight, leaving them unable to divert their attention.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has not shown the same concern for the impact the coronavirus has had on the ability of community and public interest groups to respond to various proposals to weaken environmental standards,” Schaeffer wrote in the letter.

But the EPA has argued exceptions were not needed.

“We’re open and continuing our regulatory work business as usual,” an EPA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. “As regulations.gov is fully functioning, there is no barrier to the public providing comment during the established periods.”

[The Hill]

Trump signals growing skepticism about coronavirus lockdown

President Donald Trump on Sunday night appeared to suggest he would soon consider relaxing federal guidelines meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic — even as senior administration officials promoted those measures as critical to preventing further loss of life and predicted a grim week ahead.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly before midnight. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

The president’s message referred to the administration’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative, announced last Monday, which urged Americans to practice social distancing; avoid gatherings of more than 10 people; work or attend school from home whenever possible; and abstain from eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.

At the White House coronavirus task force’s daily press briefing Sunday,Vice President Mike Pence noted that the country was seven days into the effortand praised Americans’ participation thus far.

“With the cooperation, compassion, generosity, and prayers of the American people, we can slow the spread, we can protect the most vulnerable, and we can heal our land,” Pence said. “So let’s do it, America.”

But while the guidance is helping “flatten the curve” of infected individuals within the United States, it has also contributed to a precipitous drop in economic activity.

Even more stringent directives issued by state and local authorities, such as large-scale “shelter-in-place” orders, have similarly spooked financial markets and provoked fears of an imminent recession.

On Monday morning, Trump signaled growing skepticism regarding those health-related lockdowns, retweeting a handful of accounts that proposed Americans return to work in the near future and advocated for a resumption of daily life in the U.S.

“The fear of the virus cannot collapse our economy that President Trump has built up,” read a tweet shared by the president. “We The People are smart enough to keep away from others if we know that we are sick or they are sick! After 15 days are over the world can begin to heal!”

In another post Trump retweeted, a Twitter user wrote that after 15 days, “we keep the high risk groups protected as necessary and the rest of us go back to work.”

The president’s social media activity came as Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a string of appearances on morning news shows, repeatedly cautioning that the coming days would prove among the most difficult in Americans’ fight against the public health crisis.

[Politico]

Reality

Trump’s tweets came minutes after Fox News Steve Hilton said the same thing.

In coronavirus tweet storm, Trump touts suspect ‘cure’ and potential easing of guidelines to boost economy

President Donald Trump on Monday unleashed a barrage of posts spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, chastising the World Health Organization for its early messaging, attacking his political enemies and the media, and promoting a dubious article that suggested a miracle cure was at hand. 

In more than a dozen tweets and retweets that started near midnight, the president signaled his anxiety about the economic toll the disease was wreaking on the American economy and suggested that he could ease up on 15-day guidelines the White House imposed a week ago. 

Trump also suggested he would support the decision of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over whether to cancel the Tokyo Olympics and expressed opposition to the release of some inmates from crowded jails, which is happening in several states as a public health precaution for low-level offenders and the elderly. Abe on Monday reportedly hinted the games might need to be postponed.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump wrote in a tweet posted near midnight on Sunday. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

The president then retweeted, or posted to his own account, a number of replies, including one from a man named Chuck Callesto, who is identified as a “Digital Real Estate Manager,” promoting a possible cure. 

“They should take a SERIOUS LOOK at this…” Callesto wrote in the tweet posted to the president’s account, with a link to a story with the headline “REPORT: French Doctor Reports 100 % Cure Rate Using Malaria Drug to Treat Corona Virus.”

There is no known cure or treatment for coronavirus, though scammers have sought to cash in on the panic it has caused. On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced that it has taken its first action in federal court to stop COVID-19-related fraud, following Attorney General William Barr’s direction to prioritize prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic.

The DOJ said in a press release that it recommends that Americans ignore “offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.”

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to requests for comment on the president’s messages on Twitter.

In other messages, including tweets and retweets, the president attacked former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, as well as The New York Times, the WHO, and China, which he suggested was manipulating health data. 

In several posts, the president suggested that he was looking to ease the coronavirus-related guidelines that the White House imposed last week for a 15-day period that will end next Tuesday.

After the initial all-caps message, the president retweeted a number of accounts suggesting that future guidelines from the White House will call for isolating high-risk groups only.

“Flatten the curve NOT the Economy,” an account retweeted by the president wrote. 

The current federal guidelines, which are separate from the mandatory restrictions put in place by a number of states, call for individuals not to congregate in groups of more than 10, to avoid discretionary travel and to refrain from dining or drinking at restaurants, bars and food courts. 

Tens of millions of Americans remain under virtual lockdown because of state-level actions to close businesses and keep people indoors. California and New York, the nation’s most populous states, have effectively put their economies on pause. 

The president’s tweet storm came as coronavirus surpassed 350,000 confirmed infections around the world, with a death toll rising past 15,000. Worldwide, cases have doubled in the past week, according to the WHO, and deaths have nearly tripled. 

The effect of the disease and containment measures meant to stop it have tanked markets, with the worst expected to come. Weekly job loss claims are soon expected to hit records, dwarfing the numbers seen during the 2008 recession. 

The president’s tweets come as the administration is wrestling with the appropriate response to the virus moving forward. Officials worry that the first measures, called for by public health experts, may have been too harsh, and are considering separate guidelines for the hardest-hit states of California, New York and Washington, according to NBC News. The guidelines for other states could call for a return to business. 

Trump has sought to blame China, where the virus originated, for the disease, dubbing it the “Chinese Virus” against the recommendations of public health officials in his administration. In his posts on Monday, Trump suggested without evidence that China was putting out false information about coronavirus. 

He retweeted a post sent by his son, Donald Trump Jr., promoting a story in the conservative outlet Breitbart News with the headline “WHO Spread False Chinese Government Propaganda: Coronavirus Not Contagious Among Humans.”

The WHO did not return a request for comment. 

Another post retweeted to Trump’s timeline asks why people should take Chinese health statistics “at face value” given its cover-up of the Tiananmen Square massacre. 

Trump has criticized China during his public press briefings from the White House for not disclosing information about the virus earlier, though he has also expressed sympathy for the hard-hit nation and President Xi Jinping.

“China has gone through hell over this. They’ve gone through hell. And I’ve had conversations with President Xi. I just wish they could have told us earlier. They knew they had a problem earlier,” Trump said at Saturday’s briefing. 

[CNBC]

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