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Trump clashes with Trump admin on basics of coronavirus response

Months into the coronavirus crisis, Trump publicly scolded his own CDC director for sharing accurate information with the public.
Image: President Donald Trump and CDC Director Robert R. Redfield
President Donald Trump and CDC Director Robert R. Redfield participate in the daily briefing on coronavirus in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images file

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump participated in an ABC News town-hall event with undecided voters in Pennsylvania, who heard the president peddle all kinds of bizarre claims, most notably about the coronavirus pandemic. Ignoring everything experts have made clear for months, the Republican said a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready in three or four weeks, later adding, "There are a lot of people think that masks are not good."

Asked to identify these mask critics, Trump said, in all seriousness, "I'll tell you who those people are: waiters."

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effectively pretended Trump's remarks the previous evening didn't happen. In fact, Redfield delivered sworn testimony in which he predicted a vaccine wouldn't be ready until late this year, and it would take "six to nine" months to get every American vaccinated.

The CDC chief went on to say that facemasks are currently "the most important, powerful public health tool we have." Redfield added, "I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

It was a few hours later when the president appeared in the White House press briefing room to tell the public not to believe what his handpicked CDC director said.

President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution as early as mid-October -- hours after the head of the CDC testified it likely wouldn't be ready until the end of the year and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden voiced concerns he was putting politics ahead of safety.

Trump specifically told reporters that Redfield's vaccine assessment, delivered to senators under oath, was "just incorrect information."

As for face coverings, the president said he thinks the CDC director "misunderstood the questions."

Toward the end of the hour-long briefing, a reporter asked, "The broader question is: How can the American people trust you on the pandemic when you're contradicting the head of the CDC in your own administration?" Trump replied, "Because of the great job we've done.... We have done a phenomenal job on COVID-19."

The United States has had the worst response to the pandemic of any industrialized country; tens of thousands of Americans are infected every day; and the domestic death toll will soon reach 200,000. No sane person seriously believes the Trump administration's response has been "phenomenal."

It's against this backdrop that the sitting American president, months into the crisis he misled the country about, publicly scolded his own CDC director for sharing accurate information with the public.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden delivered remarks yesterday in which he chastised Trump for ignoring the judgments of actual scientific experts and rejecting the advice of public health officials.

What the former vice president probably didn't know was that the Republican would soon after prove the point.