Trump's Easter goal in war on virus a nod to faith, business

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s “beautiful” idea to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter Sunday and pack church pews that day was dreamed up during a conference call among business leaders desperate to get the country back up and running.

But his target date for easing coronavirus restrictions is another outstretched hand to a group he has long courted: evangelical Christians.

Cooped up at the White House and watching the stock market tumble, Trump had already been eager to ease federal guidelines aimed at halting the spread of a virus that had infected more than 55,000 Americans when about a dozen business leaders convened a conference call on Sunday.

“There was a concern — not unanimity, but consensus — that you had to have a reopening of the economy at some point soon,” said Stephen Moore, a conservative economist and informal Trump adviser. On the call, Moore said, he argued in favor of setting a specific date as a goal by which point the economy could gradually begin to be reopened.

“One of the things we were saying was that this would instill some confidence in people, that there would be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

While many wanted to see that date set even sooner than Easter, “it's something that’s coming up that would be obviously a mark on someone’s calendar,” Moore said. “I had made this point that we should call this economic resurrection day."

Though it's unclear exactly when the idea made its way to Trump or whether others in his orbit had pegged the date as well — one official said they had heard the idea mentioned multiple times around the Oval Office — by late Sunday, Trump was publicly siding with such thinking, tweeting: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” On Monday, he said he was considering easing his administration's recommendations that Americans largely stay home within weeks, not months. And on Tuesday, he formally endorsed the idea of an Easter goalpost during a Fox News Channel virtual town hall.

“Easter's a very special day for me. Wouldn't it be great to have all of the churches full?" Trump later told Fox. “You'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time."