The White House will soon resume its daily coronavirus briefings, President Trump said Monday. The briefings, which the White House cut back on in late April after a string of Trump embarrassments, are likely to resume Tuesday, he said.
Trump explained that the circumstances have changed dramatically from late April, when the freewheeling, hours-long briefings were curtailed. “Last time we were nowhere with vaccines or therapeutics, and let’s say that ended six weeks ago,” he said from the Oval Office. “We’ll start them again, and I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics, and, generally speaking, where we are.”
The previous version of the daily coronavirus briefings ended after advisers came to believe that Trump was hurting himself, and the GOP in general. Days before the briefings were reconfigured, Trump suggested injecting disinfectant to ward off COVID-19. Still, the president remembers the briefings fondly, citing high TV ratings. The credit for those ratings, Trump suggested, belongs to him, and not a desperate country eager for news about an unfolding and mysterious pandemic.
“I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching … in the history of cable television, there’s never been anything like it,” he said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said last week that she was hopeful Trump would resume the briefings, linking them to a boost in his polling. He could use that right now. According to a Quinnipiac poll released last week, just 35 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing handling the pandemic. Conway told Fox News that it’s “causation, not coincidence” that Trump’s approval numbers were higher when he was joining Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx for regular briefings.
Even if Conway is right, and there is dissension on that point within the Trump White House, it’s hard to think resuming briefings will allow Trump to regain his standing with those who’ve lost faith in him over the past few months. A lot has changed since the regular briefings ended in late April, and not just on the vaccine front. Most glaringly, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19, which Trump said on April 27 could reach 70,000, is approaching 150,000.