1. The White House acknowledges America’s black community is getting hit hard by the coronavirus
It was one of the first things Trump mentioned Tuesday in his briefing: “They’re very nasty numbers. Terrible numbers,” he said. They didn’t offer numbers, but a new Washington Post analysis shows that counties that are majority black have three times the rate of infections.
Infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci said black Americans aren’t getting infected at a higher rate than other Americans but that some minority populations tend to have underlying health conditions that lead to a higher death rate: diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma.
He said the coronavirus is revealing and exacerbating health disparities in America. “They are suffering disproportionally,” he said.
2. Trump is considering freezing U.S. funding for the World Health Organization
Trump acknowledged that might not be the best thing to do in the middle of a pandemic. But he has joined a growing number of conservative senators who are raising concerns about the WHO repeating statistics given to the organization at the start of the outbreak by the Chinese government, which widely underreported and downplayed the virus.
On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James E. Risch (R-Idaho) accused the WHO of being a “political puppet” of China, saying the WHO’s failure to report the real number of cases “hindered the world’s ability to blunt the spread of this pandemic.”
Trump’s main grievances were more specific to him: first, that the WHO criticized the United States for closing its borders to China in January. (Public health experts warned such punitive measures can lead to other countries underreporting their cases.)
His other accusation was broader and tougher to pin down: “They really called, I would say, every aspect wrong.”
Trump has been trying for weeks to make governors his scapegoat. “If you have a governor that’s failing, we’re going to protect you,” he said Tuesday. But many governors on the front line of this virus are popular back home. So is the WHO next?
3. Trump responds to revelations that his trade adviser warned in January of the coronavirus
In January, Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote memos to the White House warning that the coronavirus could “imperil the lives of millions of Americans” and crater the economy. The New York Times and Axios on Monday reported on these previously unknown warnings by a top member of the Trump administration. Trump said Tuesday that he had not seen the memos.
But Trump’s response to the virus was so dissonant from all the warnings and intelligence reports coming his way about it. A reporter read Trump his comments from around the same time: “You said within a couple of days, the cases will be down to zero.”
Trump responded by downplaying the exponential increases in coronavirus cases once testing started confirming where the virus was. “Well, the cases really didn’t build up for a while,” he said.
Then he repeated something he said last week: that he knew things could get bad, but he didn’t want to warn Americans. “I’m a cheerleader for this country,” he said. “I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything else.”
Trump’s reelection could rise and fall on whether Americans think he responded quickly and effectively enough to the coronavirus. So far, his defense has been that he didn’t want to alarm Americans about a pandemic that his own adviser was warning about and that has indeed turned out to be very alarming.
4. Trump slams vote-by-mail, approves of Wisconsin’s in-person primary
Faced with the prospect that the coronavirus could be around for a while, a number of states are considering holding by-mail elections. It’s not easy to set up, but they’re going to try — either by creating an all-mail campaign from scratch, or by expanding absentee ballots, which would require likely voters to ask for an application first.
Wisconsin did neither, and on Tuesday it controversially became the only state in all of April to hold its in-person primary. Hundreds of people stood in long lines for hours to vote. Trump praised the Wisconsin Republicans who made sure the election went forward in person. And he slammed voting at home via mail.
“Mail ballots are corrupt, in my opinion,” he said. But reporters pointed out that Trump has voted by mail, by absentee ballot, in his adopted state of Florida. His response: “Sure, I can vote by mail. Because I’m allowed to. That’s called out of state. You know why I voted? Because I happened to be in the White House and I won’t be able to go to Florida to vote.”
A reporter pressed Trump on what was different between mailing in an absentee ballot and mailing in a regular ballot. Trump responded by throwing out an unfounded theory about voter fraud:
Trump has outright said that he’s concerned mailing ballots to voters could increase the voting pool, making it easier for more people to vote, and thus harming Republicans’ chances in elections.
5. Trump keeps repeating wrong statements about his administration’s response to the virus
A sampling from Tuesday alone:
“No nation in the world has developed a more diverse and robust testing capacity than the United States.” That’s not true. The United States has lagged behind even smaller countries in testing per capita, and there is still a shortage of tests.
Other countries have more cases; they just aren’t reporting them. “I know that for a fact,” Trump said. If he does, these aren’t any public facts. In addition, it would be a huge scandal if a number of countries are underreporting their cases by hundreds of thousands, as The Fix’s Aaron Blake details.
The federal government has enough supplies for hard-hit states. That’s not true. One administration official described to The Post their belated purchase of 10,000 ventilators as “a joke.” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) has estimated his state alone will need 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators. By Trump’s own calculations he shared Tuesday, his belated invocation of the Defense Production Act to force car manufacturers to make ventilators means the federal government won’t have 30,000 ventilators for the whole country until some time in June, well past New York’s projected peak.
All of these have one thing in common: They try to frame the Trump administration’s well-documented failures in responding to the virus in a more flattering light.
6. Trump sides with the ousted Navy secretary who bashed an officer warning about the virus
Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after insulting a Navy captain who warned about the coronavirus spreading on his ship.
The aircraft carrier captain was removed from his ship after writing a letter to higher-ups about his concerns about the virus. The letter leaked to the media, and Trump has been withering in his criticism of the captain for his warnings. “The captain should not have written a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway,” Trump said Tuesday.
Trump had defended Modly but has since backed off that.
Correction: A previous version of this story mistook Trump’s comments about the Navy captain to being about the former Navy secretary.