Some people in the Trump administration are still working on ways to help the U.S. survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but “the White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging toward boosting the economy and highlighting ‘success stories’ of businesses,” Axios reports. “The Coronavirus Task Force — and the doctors who’ve become household names, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci — ‘will continue but take a back seat to the forward-looking, “what’s next” message,'” a White House official told Axios.
The future of the daily coronavirus briefings is up in the air. The president said Saturday they are no longer “worth the time and effort,” but “the White House is deliberating whether to continue to hold news briefings in a modified form without Trump, potentially at a different location,” The Associated Press reports. “Trump’s aides are aiming to move the president onto more familiar — and safer, they hope — ground: talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings.”
Trump’s advisers had been warning him that his briefings are harming his re-election prospects, and “for the first time, I feel like he gets it that these aren’t helping him,” one source who spoke to Trump on Friday told Axios. Two other advisers told Axios that Trump is “still insisting his performances were helping him, as evidenced by the ratings,” and he may not give them up.
As the U.S. death toll from the pandemic rises above 54,000 and 26 million Americans have lost their jobs, “Trump has focused almost exclusively on tending to his base,” AP reports. “It drives me crazy, frankly, because part of being the president is to rise above, to ignore certain things,” Ari Fleischer, press secretary to former President George W. Bush, told AP. Trump’s former chief strategist Steven Bannon predicted Trump’s base will broaden thanks to a “new nationalism” that blames China for the pandemic.
A GOP strategy memo sent to Senate Republican campaigns by the National Republican Senatorial Committee threads that needle, advising GOP candidates: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China,” The Washington Post reports. Peter Weber