President Trump To Resume His Daily Coronavirus Briefings
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The U.S. continues to see about 5,000 deaths each week from the coronavirus. Even so, President Trump insisted again this weekend that the virus will disappear.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
CHRIS WALLACE: I understand...
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will be right eventually. You know, I said it's going to disappear. I'll say it again.
WALLACE: But does that...
TRUMP: It's going to disappear.
WALLACE: Does that discredit...
TRUMP: And I'll be right.
SHAPIRO: That was Trump speaking to "Fox News Sunday." Today the president said he would be resuming daily briefings on the pandemic, a possible acknowledgment that the disease is not going away anytime soon. The public has been giving Trump low marks on his response, and that's damaging his reelection campaign. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us with more on Trump's shifting approach.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: The president keeps saying things are not that bad. Do his actions suggest he knows the COVID-19 outbreak still is really bad?
LIASSON: Well, for the White House to announce that the briefings are going to resume is an indication that they might understand that. They certainly want to show that the president is paying attention to the No. 1 problem that people care about. This is after weeks of not attending the task force meetings at the White House or being briefed by Anthony Fauci. They want to show that he's taking the virus seriously because the virus is flaring up again.
Remember, when the briefings started way back in March, he appeared in the briefing room beside Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. His polls went up. Then as time went on and he became famously undisciplined, started talking about injecting bleach, picking fights with Democratic governors, then the briefings became a self-inflicted wound.
We don't know which direction these renewed briefings will take. We do know that an aide to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is a Republican ally of Trump, told The New York Times on the record that the president got bored with the virus. And of course, as you mentioned, his poll numbers are going down, and his leverage in negotiating an aid package and keeping his own party in Congress in line are starting to erode.
SHAPIRO: Have you started to see real breaks between the president and the rest of the Republican Party?
LIASSON: I think we are. You know, there are a bunch of red state governors that followed the president's lead, reopened fast, didn't want to require masks. But those states - Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona - are the states where we're seeing the biggest spikes. Now those governors are going in a different direction. They're breaking with the president on masks. They're shutting down their economies again, partially.
And even the president is changing his tune on masks. In the past, he'd said wearing them was politically correct. People who wear them were wearing them to show their disapproval of him. But today, he tweeted, quote, "many people say it's patriotic to wear a face mask." And he included a photo of himself in a mask.
He is still denying that the U.S. death rate lag behind other rich, industrialized countries and is close to countries like Brazil and Russia. In that Fox News interview, he talked about testing as if testing created more illness as opposed to just uncovering what's already there. Here's his exchange with Chris Wallace.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
TRUMP: But we have more tests, by far, than any country in the world.
WALLACE: But, sir, testing is up 37%. Thirty...
TRUMP: Well, that's good.
WALLACE: I understand. Cases are up 194%. It isn't just that testing has gone up; it's that the virus has spread. The positivity rate has increased. The virus...
TRUMP: Many of those cases...
WALLACE: ...Is worse than it was.
TRUMP: Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles, and we put it down as a test.
LIASSON: So just the sniffles. But on testing, there are reports that the White House is at odds with Senate Republicans who want the White House to agree to put more money into testing into this new bill because even at this point, if we get more tests, the tests aren't coming back fast enough to be useful. So you need more lab capacity. And especially for Republican Senate incumbents who are running for reelection in places like Colorado and Arizona and North Carolina - they want testing, and they're afraid they're not getting enough support from the White House.
SHAPIRO: Just in our last 30 seconds, Mara, the president had Republican congressional leaders at the White House today to talk about the next relief package, and they haven't started talking with Democrats yet. How much pressure is there to get something done?
LIASSON: There is a lot of pressure. At the end of this week, those enhanced unemployment benefits end. In many states, the ban on evictions end. And the U.S. has already spent trillions of dollars. People have made a lot of personal sacrifices so that the public health system could get its act in order, and that hasn't happened. And it is hurting the president's reelection bid.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson. Thank you, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.