Trump delivers a self-congratulatory monologue that was misleadingly billed to the press as a news conference, before signing the Payment Protection Program Flexibility Act. Ava DeSantis reports on the main takeaways.
President Trump addressed the nation this morning from the Rose Garden in response to a Department of Labor report on increased job openings and decreased unemployment. Trump credited his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis with the “outstanding” gain “of almost 3 million jobs.”
The President explained his agenda for the continued response to coronavirus, economic policy, the ongoing protests, and ended the press conference by publicly signing the Payment Protection Program Flexibility Act. The PPP “allows recipients of loan forgiveness under the paycheck protection program to defer payroll taxes.”
Trump, detailed the May employment statistics, claiming, “…we had numbers, the best in history for African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American and for everybody, best for women. Best for people without a diploma, young people without a diploma.” When challenged on this point by a reporter questioning, “Asian American unemployment went up by 2.5%, how is that a victory?” Trump dismissed the question and walked away to stand with his staffers.
Trump also said this increase in employment opportunities was “widespread” across multiple industries: “The job surge that we’re seeing right now is widespread, leisure and hospitality added 1.2 million jobs, construction jobs are up. Listen to this, 464,000 education and health services rose 124,000, retail traders up 368,000. And here’s the one I like to best remember, previous administrations said that you need a magic wand for manufacturing, manufacturing which we added 600,000 jobs.”
These advances, Trump argued, resulted in “the most people working in the history of our country, almost 160 million people. We had never even seen close to that.” Trump believes economic growth will continue to increase when large, economically important states begin to reopen: “Don’t forget, New York is barely included and that’s one of our big ones. California is barely included because they’re not open.”
Yesterday, at a press conference, 2020 Presidential Candidate Joe Biden argued that the economy puts “Donald Trump’s failures…on full display this week.” Biden, like reporters at Trump’s press conference today, challenged Trump’s claim that his economic victories have reached minority communities. In the last month, while white unemployment was at 11%, Black and Latino adults faced rates of 16 and 20 percent, respectively.
Beyond the racial disparities, Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump plainly for saying “it’s a joyous day when we have almost 20 million people out of work.”
Trump defended his administration’s choice to send the National Guard to Minnesota to control the protests in the state. He condemned the actions of the protestors saying “they were ripping [the city] apart.” The National Guard, according to the President, “went in and one night it was over. You don’t see that problem in Minnesota now at all. Not even a little bit.”
In the Rose Garden, Trump said “this is a great day for George Floyd.” As he concluded his remarks and began to walk away, a journalist shouted “how is this a great day for George Floyd?” Trump did not respond to this, or any other questions at the appearance.
Trump believes “[closing] the country down” was the correct decision in response to the coronavirus spread. The President paused, questioning the spread of the coronavirus from China to the United States, hinting at the possibility of an actor responsible for this spread. He said, “and you do say, how come at Wuhan…it didn’t go to any other parts. It didn’t go to Beijing. It didn’t go to other parts of China. And you say, how come it came out to Europe, to the world, to the United States, but it didn’t go to China?” He moved on, concluding his discussion of the spread by crediting the stay-at-home orders with saving “possibly two and a half million lives now.”
Critics agree that the decision to “close the country down,” as Trump describes, was the right one-but they say that Trump didn’t make it soon enough. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN in mid-April “I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives.” Fauci later corrected his claim that more urgent action could have saved lives, saying he was speaking “hypothetically.” Former President Barack Obama, who since leaving office has largely abstained from political commentary, said of Trump’s response to coronavirus it was an “absolute chaotic disaster.”
Trump advised states to follow his lead on coronavirus response, and accept federal assistance to control Black Lives Matter protests. He specifically called on Governor Cuomo, of New York State to “[not] be proud. Get the job done. You’ll end up looking much better in the end. Call in the National Guard. Call me.” He also advised Governor Cuomo and Governor Phil Murphy, of New Jersey, to start to reopen stores, restaurants, and public spaces.
Trump’s promise is to focus on “…renewal, restoration, or recovery of the most vulnerable areas of America” in a continued federal response to coronavirus. The best strategy to “ensure the health of our people moving forward is to focus our resources on protecting high-risk populations like the elderly, and those in nursing homes, while allowing younger and healthier Americans to get back to work immediately and open up our schools.” His only obstacle, as he described it, is “left-wing bad policy of raising taxes and green new deals…”
Trump left the podium refusing to answer any questions from reporters. Reporters shouted at the President, asking why the press conference didn’t allow questions and why the White House is a “fortress.” Trump did not reply.