News Donald Trump escalates stoush with states – but his coronavirus claims don’t stack up
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Donald Trump escalates stoush with states – but his coronavirus claims don’t stack up

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There is plenty to unpick from US President Donald Trump’s bizarre tantrum on national TV during a White House briefing filled with false information, propaganda, and attacks on the media.

Tuesday’s controversial performance has thrown new light on his administration’s pandemic response and raised fresh criticism that he is cracking under pressure.

In an escalation of a row with states about lockdown laws, the President has been fact-checked on live morning television as governors joined forces to push back at his claims he “calls the shots” and has the power to reopen the economy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CBS “we don’t have a king; we have a president”.

“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Mr Cuomo said in a separate interview with CNN.

Mr Cuomo has teamed up with the leaders of nine other states (all Democrats except in Massachusetts) to coordinate how to open the economy once the COVID-19 outbreak is contained.

But Mr Trump has insisted he has ultimate power and on Wednesday (Australian time) he took to Twitter with a message about “mutiny”.

He singled out Mr Cuomo, whose state is the epicentre of the virus with another 3700 deaths announced on Tuesday (local time).

“Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

“I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!,”

It comes after an extraordinary media briefing, in which Mr Trump took to the podium to show a propaganda-style video before launching into self-praise and justification.

“Everything we did was right,” Mr Trump insisted when responding to questions about his initial response to the pandemic.

“I would love to be able to say that we have a very honest press … and I don’t mind being criticised, but not when they’re wrong,” Mr Trump said.

“Not when people have done such a great job.”

So is the media right to question Mr Trump’s claims?

Claim one

The President of the US has ‘total’ authority over the governors of each state.

What Mr Trump said:

When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”

 

The facts:

There is no legislation that gives the President power to override states’ public health decisions.

Without seeking his permission, governors, mayors and school district leaders can impose restrictions.

Claim two

During the briefing, Mr Trump said he banned travel from certain countries, thus acting swiftly against the spread of the coronavirus.

What Mr Trump said:

I did a ban on China. You think that was easy? Then I did a ban on Europe and many said it was an incredible thing to do.’’

The facts:

The travel restrictions imposed by the President were not total bans and contained multiple exemptions.

Only foreign nationals who had been in China, Europe’s Schengen area (most European Union states), Britain or Ireland in the past 14 days were fully banned from entering.

Claim three

Governors across the US have the medical supplies they need.

What Mr Trump said:

No one who has needed a ventilator has not gotten a ventilator … No one who has needed a hospital bed has not gotten a hospital bed.’’

The facts:

One day earlier New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan both said they were struggling with ventilator stocks and hospital bed capacity.

Claim four

During Tuesday’s briefing, Mr Trump played a video that included audio from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman discussing how he was criticised for his early travel restrictions. It was made to look like she praised the President.

The quote used:

“He halted a number of flights from China into the US,” Ms Haberman said.

“The idea was to halt the spread of the disease, keep transmissions to a minimum. He was accused of xenophobia. He was accused of making a racist move.

“At the end of the day, it was probably effective, because it did actually take a pretty aggressive measure against the spread of the virus.”

The facts:

A key part of the quote was cut off. This is how the full sentence went:

“At the end of the day, it was probably effective, because it did actually take a pretty aggressive measure against the spread of the virus.

The problem is, it was one of the last things that he did for several weeks.’’

Haberman also posted on Twitter that she went on to say the President: “treated that travel limitation as a ‘mission accomplished’ moment,” referencing former president George W. Bush’s appearance on a US aircraft carrier in the initial stages of the Iraq war.

The US has surpassed Italy as the nation with the highest number of coronavirus deaths, with more than 25,300 recorded by Wednesday morning.

The country has had more than 598,000 cases – three times that of any other nation.

Only a month ago, Mr Trump claimed COVID-19 would go away on its own.

Then, he said it would not be nearly as bad as the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, which killed about 12,500 Americans.

He followed that up with the now-infamous claim the crisis would be over by Easter.

At the end of March, Mr Trump said that if the final US coronavirus death toll was 100,000-200,000, it would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job”.

Those comments came after a study from the Imperial College showed in a worst-case scenario, 2.2 million Americans could die.

Mr Trump’s positive result of 100,000 American deaths would be the equivalent toll of roughly two Vietnam wars or 38 September 11, 2001, attacks.