Speaking Tuesday in the Rose Garden of the White House, President Donald Trump denied making a comment he did make. He criticized the World Health Organization for the same thing he has done before. He wrongly suggested he was the only national leader to impose travel restrictions on China. He claimed he was “authorizing” governors to lift coronavirus restrictions even though this power always belonged to governors. He falsely claimed, again, that “nobody ever thought” there would be a crisis like this. And he repeated some of his favorite false claims about his tariffs on China.
Here’s a rundown of Trump’s claims, and the facts around them.
After he criticized the World Health Organization for praising China’s supposed transparency over the coronavirus, Trump was pressed about his own previous praise of China’s supposed transparency. “I don’t talk about China’s transparency,” Trump responded. “You know, if I’m so good to China, how come I was the only person, the only leader of a country, that closed our borders tightly against China?”
‘Authorizing’ the governors to reopen
Facts First: Trump was asserting authority many legal scholars say he does not have. There is no legislation that explicitly gives the power to authorize (or refuse to authorize) governors to lift their own restrictions, and many legal scholars say governors have a long-established constitutional authority over public health matters in their states. In other words, Trump was claiming to be handing governors leeway that was never his to hand out in the first place.
Trump’s assertion Tuesday came in the context that he was backtracking from his suggestion Monday that he might compel governors to lift restrictions against their wishes. On Tuesday, he was asserting power while also saying he wasn’t going to use all of it. But the assertion was still inaccurate.
Trump also said Tuesday that he would be closely watching governors and that he would “come down on them very hard” if they do not do a good job. It is possible he meant there that he would criticize them sharply or do something else that is within his power.
Trump’s opinion on Kennedy Center funding
“Last time they put Kennedy Center in. I hated putting Kennedy Center in. I have great respect for Kennedy Center, but I hated putting it in the bill because it’s just not appropriate, right? But they wanted it in for whatever reason; they had their own political reason. And, John, I said: ‘Watch the way that blows up.’ And it blew up — I think it blew up in their face,” Trump said.
Trump did tell reporters on March 25 that he had believed the Kennedy Center funding would make for a “lousy sound bite,” and he noted that it was a Democratic request. But he also said, “I’ll tell you what: I approved that.” And he said, “I’m a fan of that,” though he wasn’t clear if he was referring to the funding provision in particular or the Kennedy Center itself. He proceeded to compliment the Kennedy Center, saying that “they do a beautiful job.”
“So we end up giving them something for Kennedy Center. We end up giving them something for — far worse than that. Look, say what you want about Kennedy Center … you know, the Kennedy Center got hit hard. I mean, there aren’t too many people watching, I said today, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ OK? …You can’t pretty much go in because of the — what’s going on with the virus. But beyond — far beyond Kennedy Center, we give things that we don’t want to give.”
How unforeseen the coronavirus crisis was
At Tuesday’s briefing, Trump blamed any shortages in medical equipment or resources on past administrations and reiterated his belief that no one could have been prepared for the current situation because these circumstances were unforeseen. “In all fairness to previous administrations, nobody ever thought anything like this was going to happen,” the President said.
Facts First: This is false. The US intelligence community and public health experts had warned for years that the country was at risk from a pandemic. Experts had also warned that the country would face shortages of critical medical equipment, such as ventilators, if a pandemic occurred.
Trade with China
After CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked whether the President wanted to walk back his previous comments praising China for its transparency, Trump replied that he’s “always respectful of China.” He then pointed to the trade deals signed between the US and China, claiming that China had paid the US “nothing in any previous administration.” Later he added, “They’re also paying us 25% or $250 billion in tariffs. So we’re taking in — wait a minute — we’re taking in billions of dollars for China, from China. They never paid us 10 cents. That’s a great thing.”