WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump's visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday turned into a scattershot defense of his administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, veering into political score-settling, exaggerations and talk harking back to his impeachment.
With financial markets slowing and the virus spreading, Trump tried once more to quell the growing alarm that has prompted travel to be curtailed and events to be cancelled from coast to coast. But Trump, wearing his “Keep America Great" campaign hat while discussing the global worry, repeatedly detoured from his message of reassurance.
Trump called Washington state's governor, who is dealing with the most serious outbreak in the nation, a “snake.” He said he'd prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn't be added to the count for the nation's total number of infections. And he falsely claimed that a test for the virus was available immediately to all who want it.
He also suggested the accuracy of the coronavirus test was “perfect — like the letter was perfect." With that, Trump was making a comparison to the July phone call with Ukraine's president that led to his impeachment. Trump, who was acquitted by the Senate last month, has insisted he did nothing wrong.
Before departing Washington, Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus response funding bill at the White House and instructed the public: “Be calm. It will go away."
“We have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers are lower than just about anybody," Trump said about cases of the virus.
But his messaging was more scattered at the CDC, reflective of the on-again, off-again, on-again nature of the trip itself. The White House had announced early Friday that Trump's trip to the CDC was canceled because of concern about a possible infection there, but that person tested negative and Trump ended up going after all.
During his visit to the CDC, Trump touted the ratings of his town hall this week on Fox News and mocked a CNN reporter. He cut off Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as he tried to counsel Americans to be patient. And despite calling this week for bipartisanship during the crisis, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence not to be complimentary during his Thursday meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington because “he is a snake.”