Trump Says Coronavirus Response Should Be Nonpartisan, Attacks Democrats, Kisses Flag

“I love you, baby.”

President Donald Trump kisses the American flag after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 29, 2020.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

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Midday Saturday, President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and senior government health officials held a briefing to update the nation on the latest with the coronavirus response. This included new travel restrictions related to Iran, Italy, and South Korea, and the acknowledgement that the first stateside American diagnosed with a coronavirus died Saturday in Washington. Trump said the victim was “a wonderful woman,” even though the patient was, in fact, a man in his 50s.

Trump defended his use of the term “hoax” when discussing the virus, saying that he was describing Democrats’ use of the virus to attack him, not the spread of the virus itself.

After taking questions from reporters, Trump hopped in the presidential helicopter to keep a speaking engagement at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists, many of whom are strident Trump loyalists. Having devoted his early afternoon to the subdued work of pretending to be in control of a budding pandemic, he was now back in his element, surrounded by adoring fans instead of reporters asking “dishonest” questions, like whether the White House was muzzling the government’s top health officials for not staying on message. Liberated from having to be president for a moment, he could now return to his rolling permanent campaign. 

Trump took the stage and began to run through the old standards. There were attacks on Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, whom Trump called a “lowlife” for voting to convict on one of the two articles of impeachment during the Senate trial, and attacks on European allies, whom Trump said “sometimes…treat us worse than our enemies.” He brought up the US killings of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani (“We took that son of a bitch out, didn’t we?”) and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which Trump bragged about watching play out in real time on a TV monitor in the White House situation room. “You don’t have a movie like that,” Trump said, basking in his own glory. 

He bragged about pulling US troops from the Syria–Turkey border and stealing foreign oil: “They’ve been fighting for a thousand years. What does it have to do with us?” Well, except for the troops he left there to keep the oil. “I left soldiers to keep the oil. They don’t want to say that.”

Trump made sure he didn’t leave out former FBI Director James Comey, reminding the crowd that if he hadn’t fired him “it would have been a whole different story.” And former Special Counsel Robert Mueller got some time too: “By the way, how is Bob Mueller doing?” Trump joked, as the crowd laughed, forgetting to mention that his longtime lawyer and campaign chairman are currently in prison, and his longtime associate Roger Stone was recently sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and threatening a witness, and his former national security adviser fighting his own earlier guilty plea for lying to the FBI.

There were the attacks on “Crazy Bernie Sanders,” and also on “Mini Mike Bloomberg,” whom Trump mocked by squatting behind the podium. The crowd erupted and began chanting “four more years! Four more years!”

Trump did carve out a few minutes of the nearly two-hour-long speech to address the coronavirus. He praised the government’s medical officials and also himself for the early travel restrictions on travelers from China—”that decision has been now given very good grades, like an A-plus-plus-plus”—saying that his opponents “wanted to let infected people pour into our country.”

Reading from the teleprompter, Trump offered to help the Iranian government battle its coronavirus outbreak. He told the crowd it was “time for all Americans to put politics aside and to come together to work for the health, safety and security of the American people,” after which he pivoted to an attack on Democrats. He attacked “Nervous Nancy” Pelosi and “Crying” Chuck Schumer. “If he sees a [microphone] he’ll run 200 yards to get to a mic,” Trump said. “He always did.”

Trump went on: “This is a different kind of a deal. But this is different. We’ve got to be very careful with this stuff. We have to make it nonpartisan if we can.”

After the speech, his upper lip covered in sweat, Trump hugged a U.S. flag, mouthed the words “I love you, baby,” kissed the flag, then hugged it again, and left the stage.

The whole thing is below:

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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