From the start of the news conference, Trump repeatedly sought to pat himself and his administration on the back, even as the scope and severity of the viral outbreak worldwide and in the United States is still coming into focus.
“We really think we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum,” Trump said. “And again, we’ve had tremendous success — tremendous success, beyond what people would have thought.”
He added at another point: “We’re doing great. Other countries have not been doing great."
And: “So far, we’ve done a great job.”
When he was asked why the stock market has plunged 2,000 points in recent days, Trump acknowledged part of the reason was coronavirus fears. But he also blamed the Federal Reserve, Boeing, General Motors, and he said he thought the markets were suddenly worried about one of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents beating him for reelection — despite that campaign having been going for more than a year.
He added: “I think after I win the reelection, the stock market’s going to boom like it’s never boomed — just like it did, by the way, after I won the last election."
Perhaps most striking, Trump brought up the annual death toll for seasonal influenza in the United States, which is generally between 25,000 and 69,000 people. It wasn’t clear why he brought it up, but it seemed possible he was trying to play down whatever might come of the spread of the new coronavirus in the United States.
Trump also repeatedly claimed his political opponents had initially opposed his decision to close down travel from certain areas of the world, without elaborating.
He cited “decisions that were ridiculed at the beginning” and said “a lot of people thought we shouldn’t have done it at the beginning.” He later returned to the idea that, “had I not made a decision very early on not to take people from a certain area, we wouldn’t be talking this way” — about the situation being relatively contained.
Trump was even asked about supporters like Rush Limbaugh advancing the idea that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was exaggerating the potential impact of the new coronavirus to hurt him and that Trump’s opponents had weaponized the estimates against him.
“I agree with it,” Trump said. “And I’d like it to stop.”
Trump also picked a particularly notable political battle, targeting Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) who said the administration should have asked for more money than the $2.5 billion to deal with the coronavirus. Trump suggested that was meant to “demean” his administration. He said this even though some Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), have made similar suggestions.
“That’s okay; we’ll take more money,” Trump said. “But they shouldn’t demean the people that are on the stage who are the finest in the world. They’re not demeaning me. They’re demeaning the greatest health-care professionals in the world and people that do exactly what we’re talking about.”
By that point, however, it was difficult to believe he wasn’t taking it personally.