POTUS abruptly ends his newser after precisely 30 minutes, at 4 pm, after engaging with three reporters.

President Trump announced that “Secretary of State Pompeo will leave this evening on a historic trip to Doha, to Qatar” for peace talks.
Trump opened the news conference at 3:30 by name-checking four of the “all-stars” from the press corps who turned out today. He was consulting a list on the lectern and also making eye contact with those journalists.

The opening monologue lasted 18 minutes and covered a lot of familiar turf, shifting stream of consciousness style from one topic to the next, repeatedly emphasizing the importance of his victory over Joe Biden.

Vaccines are coming. “We want schools to safely open… Children are at extremely low risk of complications from the virus.”
.2% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in those under age 25 and most had underlying conditions, he said.
“There’s nothing like being in the classroom. That’s what we’ve learned from this ordeal.”
“We want to see Big 10 football. We hope it’s coming back… I’m pushing it…. The players are missing a big opportunity…. They want to get into the NFL.”
It’s much safer for college kids to stay on campus, he said. “They have to go back.”
At 20 colleges, not one student who tested positive has been hospitalized.
“Joe Biden continues to use the pandemic” for political purposes, reading off a TelePrompTer.  “I’m not allowed to use the TelePrompTer. Why is that, Phil?” he says during his opening monologue to Washington Post’s Phil Rucker – one of the reporters he named when he started — in row 4.
Talks about Biden coming out of his basement.
Accuses Democrats of wanting a “blanket lockdown…. We’re not doing any more shutdowns…. The swine flu was a disaster… When Joe Biden was vice president his failed approach to the swine flu was a disaster” … more of the greatest hit on Biden mangling “H1N1” as “N1H1.”… “He can’t manage himself.”… Biden/China. “They will own America.”
Then he talks briefly about Pompeo heading to the Middle East for a “bold diplomatic effort” to 
“Secretary of State Pompeo will leave this evening on a historic trip to Doha, to Qatar.”
Nobody killed in Afghanistan since February.
The peace talks might have come sooner but for the “phony witch hunts.”
Notes that next week UAE-Israel deal will be signed at the White House and says another country might join. 
Questions have begun: Why did you lie to the American people.

***

POTUS abruptly ended his newser after precisely 30 minutes, at 4 pm, after engaging with three reporters.

Jon Karl peppered POTUS with an opening line of questions about his misleading public statements compared to comments to Bob Woodward about the pandemic. Trump turned at one point to medical adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, seated on the seat along the wall, where Dr. Fauci was often seated during the coronavirus task force briefing era. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is two seats to Atlas’ left. 

Trump defends his public-facing comments as a way to keep the public calm: “I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming `Death! Death!’ ”  

The second question went to “all-star” Phil Rucker. Why didn’t you level with the American people as foreign leaders did, calmly but also telling their people it was more serious than you told Americans? (paraphrasing) 

“We have done much much better than the European Union… and we have rounded the final turn.”

Trump engaged in back and forth with both reporters, trying to move on from Karl by pivoting to Rucker but continuing to talk to Karl, then trying to pivot away from Rucker but continuing to engage with him, too.  

During the final questions on the Durham investigation, Trump lists a number of Fox News shows he’s watched since Wednesday night to support contentions about Comey and witch hunt allegations and criminality directed at him.

Be sure to consult the transcript if you want all of it. Just trying to provide a bit of flavor from row 6, since it was all live-streamed.

Next up: Marine One departure in an hour or so. The rain has eased and we have no word on any change of plans.

The White House Press Pool

Produced by members of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), these brief Pool Reports track American president. The White House Press Pool is composed of the members of the White House...