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Trump news live: Latest updates as president insists he ‘has total authority’ during latest ‘propaganda’ coronavirus briefing

Donald Trump delivered one of his wildest White House briefings yet on the coronavirus on Monday, insisting his “authority is total” when it comes to ending lockdown measures, setting up a fight with state governors who believe the power lies with them.

Cutting a defensive, Nixonian figure at times, the president hailed his own record on the crisis, refuted negative media coverage and even ran a laudatory video for the benefit of the assembled press corps that was quickly dismissed as “propaganda” by CNN and other commentators.

“We have a constitution. We don’t have a king,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo​ reminded Mr Trump afterwards, as his and other states formed alliances of their own to prepare for reopening, with the country’s death toll from the crisis passing 23,000.

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Bernie Sanders backs Joe Biden

Yesterday, the popular democratic socialist formally gave his endorsement to the last man standing in their party’s 2020 race. They’ve already started “policy working groups” to ensure the Vermont senator’s die-hard progressive base feel better about backing Biden.

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most passionate and prominent of Bernie disciples, told The New York Times yesterday the process of uniting the party between the former veep would be “uncomfortable for everyone” and that “if Biden is only doing things he’s comfortable with, then it’s not enough”.

Here’s Alex Woodward’s report.

Trump denies he plans to axe Dr Fauci after ill-advised retweet

The president also moved during yesterday’s briefing to shoot down the suggestion he was plotting to fire Dr Fauci, his top infectious diseases expert, having retweeted a post from a failed California GOP candidate that included the hashtag “#FireFauci”. 

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday and conceded that had the Trump administration ordered certain measures sooner, fewer Americans would have died, an admission that will no doubt have infuriated the president.

But Trump refused to admit the retweet had been a mistake yesterday as he rowed back from a decision that promised to be catastrophic, given the physician’s widespread popularity.

“I notice everything,” the president said in a tense and aggressive fashion when asked about it. “It was someone’s opinion.. I think he’s a great guy.”

John T Bennett has more on this.

New York governor reminds Trump he is not a king, forges alliances with neighbouring states

“We have a constitution. We don’t have a king,” Andrew Cuomo​ reminded Trump after the briefing in response to his jaw-droppingly ignorant invocation of majesterial powers. 

He was not the only state governor to make clear they would not tolerate pressure from the federal government to end lockdown measures before they deem it safe at a local level.

New Hampshire’s Republican governor Chris Sununu told CNN: “All of these executive orders are state executive orders and so therefore it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that.”

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, commented: “The government doesn’t get opened up via Twitter. It gets opened up at the state level.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been forging alliances between New York and New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island, the six states agreeing to co-ordinate their actions.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington – Gavin Newsom, Kate Brown and Jay Inslee – announced a similar pact.

While each state is building its own plan, the three West Coast states have agreed to a framework saying they will work together, put their residents’ health first and let science guide their decisions.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, stressed such efforts would take time.

“The house is still on fire. We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know we’re going to need… to make sure this doesn’t reignite,” Murphy said on a call with reporters.

Here’s Danielle Zoellner’s report.


President ridiculed by CNN for ‘propaganda’ video lauding his response

Another extraordinary aspect of yesterday’s press conference was Trump running a laudatory video for the benefit of the assembled press corps hailing his own efforts to tackle the coronavirus that was quickly dismissed as “propaganda” by CNN, the network winning new admirers for the overtly critical nature of the chyrons running across the bottom of viewers’ screens during its coverage.

Other captions read “Trump uses task force briefing to try and retwrite history on coronavirus response” and “Trump melts down in angry response to reports he ignored virus warning”.

Bravo that man.

“Everything we did was right,” the president insisted in defence of his administration’s actions last night, whining that he had been “brutalised” by the press.

“On January 21, not one person has died. I’m supposed to shut down the largest economy in the world?”

That death toll is now at 23,644, according to Johns Hopkins University, the valuable weeks lost between his first official briefing on 18 January by health secretary Alex Azar and his first public address on 26 February – a period spent in denial and dismissal – costing thousands of American lives, by Dr Anthony Fauci’s own admission.

You can read more on Trump’s “North Korean-style” video – apparently assembled for him at taxpayers’ expense by White House staffers, rather than his 2020 campaign team – from John T below.

Trump insists he has ‘total authority’ in Covid-19 briefing meltdown

Donald Trump delivered one of his wildest White House briefings yet on the coronavirus on Monday, insisting his “authority is total” when it comes to ending lockdown measures, setting up a fight with state governors who believe the power lies with them.

“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total. The governors know that,” he claimed. “The president of the United States calls the shots.”

He then declined to offer specifics about the source of this asserted power, which he continued to insist, despite constitutional limitations, was absolute, a statement that left him sounding somewhere between a tyrannical medieval monarch and Eric Cartman of South Park fame.

More on the reaction to Trump’s belief in his divine right to rule in a moment.

The rest of his latest marathon press session saw the president continuing to bash the media over its negative coverage of his administration’s fatally slow response to the crisis – lashing out repeatedly at PBS reporter Paula White and calling her a “disgrace” – and downplaying the shortage of ventilators for American hospitals, saying demand from state governors had fallen (untrue) and attempting to pin the limited federal stockpile on the preceeding Obama White House.

He would later continue to air his grievances against the Fourth Estate on Twitter by posting clips of Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson doing his dirty work for him by slamming their broadcast rivals.

Here’s John T Bennett with the full story.

Hello and welcome to The Independent‘s rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in the US and the Donald Trump administration’s response to it.

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