President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, co-moderated by FOX News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
“Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the U.S.,” Trump wrote, apparently contradicting an earlier report in The Washington Post. “Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner……Fake News got it wrong again, as always, and tens of thousands of lives were saved by my EARLY BAN of China into our Country. The people that were allowed were heavily scrutinized and tested U.S. citizens, and as such, I welcome them with open arms!”
Responding to a viewer question on the Post’s report on Sunday, Trump pointed out that top Democrats were opposing his measures to close down travel from China. Trump said that on Jan. 23, he had indeed received an intelligence report on the virus, but it indicated it wouldn’t be a major threat. Trump said intelligence materials would be released on Monday to substantiate his claim.
Politico had reported that the Trump administration held a briefing on the coronavirus for senators on Jan. 24, but it was “sparsely attended” in part because it “was held on the same day as a deadline for senators to submit their impeachment questions.”
Trump was joined later by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, and the three emphasized that a payroll tax cut would be a necessary part of any future stimulus.
Mnuchin made clear that the White House was looking to “help states,” but not “bail out” any financial mismanagement.
Marine One, with President Donald Trump aboard, approaches the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from a trip to Camp David, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
But, the nation’s political and economic landscape has transformed dramatically in the several weeks since Trump’s last town hall, which featured an in-person audience in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Even then, Trump made sure to tout his decision to close most travel from China in January, even though Democrats and some media organizations initially characterized the move as xenophobic.
“One of the things I did is, I closed down the borders to China and to other areas that are very badly affected and really having a lot of troubles — I mean, countries and areas of countries that have had a lot of problems,” Trump told an audience member at the March town hall. “And, I closed them down very early, against the advice of almost everybody, and weve been given rave reviews.”
Also at the March town hall, Trump touted his Gallup poll numbers, which showed relatively high marks for the administration’s coronavirus response. Those numbers rose six points in the last two weeks, according to the latest Gallup poll.
President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The new survey found 49 percent approved of the presidents job in office and 47 percent disapproved, a personal best with Gallup for Trump.
Two weeks ago, 43 percent approved of the presidents job, according to the pollster. Trump also had a 49 percent approval rating in mid-March, according to Gallup, before his rating took a 6-point plunge in the first half of April.
However, Fox News polls showed that Biden has remained a strong rival for Trump in the early days of the campaign, and has surged ahead in key states.
For now, though, Trump made clear he was focused on confronting the pandemic more than political considerations. Asked at the end of the town hall what he had told family members about the crisis, Trump sounded an optimistic note.
“I sat down with my son, I sat down with my grandchildren. I said a terrible thing has happened,” the president told Baier. “But we’re going to be strong, we’re going to get out of it, and our country’s going to be bigger, better, and stronger than ever before.”