Update (1820ET): Once Trump's montage ended, the reporters in the crowd sat in silence for a second, then things really started going off the rails.
As reporters tried non-too-subtly to try and get Trump to inadvertently admit that he broke federal campaign laws by using White House resources on 'campaign' materials, Trump saved himself, if only thanks to his insistence that he was merely trying to correct the record on behalf of all the hard-working FEMA workers, members of the Army Corp of Engineers, health-care workers and others who have participated in the response.
Still, at points, Trump made a convincing enough argument that he couldn't have instituted a lockdown even if he wanted to before the middle of March, like the NYT and WaPo have suggested he should have. Trump insisted the US needed to have enough confirmed cases to justify the lockdown (surprisingly, none of the reporters asked Trump about the lack of tests - but, again, that failing has largely been attributed to bureaucrats at the CDC).
Reporters then pressed Trump about his decision to retweet someone calling to "fire Fauci", and he replied that he was simply sharing "someone's opinion". In his defense, Trump is known for being a moody and unpredictable boss.
But Trump got into quite a back and forth with CBS reporter Paula Reid - the same reporter who had earlier asked Dr. Fauci if he was speaking 'voluntarily'. Aside from Trump's infamous exchanges with CNN's Jim Acosta, his back-and-forth with Reid was probably one of the most contentious dialogues with a reporter in his entire three years in office.
At times, Trump seemed off balance, seeming to confuse dates at certain points, while relying mostly on vague answers. Ultimately, he stuck to his guns. He insisted he would get the reporter 'a list' of his administration's accomplishments during the month of February.
It was perhaps one of the most exciting moments since the daily briefings began, and more interestingly, started more than 40 minutes into the briefing.
This was Reid's last tweet before beginning her debate with Trump.
We suspect we'll see a story in the NYT or WaPo by this time tomorrow claiming that Dr. Fauci now has Stockholm Syndrome thanks to the president.
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Update (1810ET): Mark Dice just pointed out that, as Trump aired the montage mentioned below, CNN cut away from his press briefing. Its critics on the left who have been pushing the network to stop covering the briefings entirely (despite their obvious importance to the public and the markets).
CNN just cut the feed to the White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing.— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) April 13, 2020
Trump then added that he told the states that they were asking for more ventilators than they needed.
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Update (1800ET): Taking back the podium, Trump started walking the press through a surprisingly detailed and, as far as we can tell, pretty accurate, accounting of his decision-making process during the early days of the global outbreak, starting in mid-January. Trump recounted how when he decided to bar entry from travelers who had recently been to China, he was "brutalized" by the Democrats.
Then, in what represents, as far as we can tell, a major innovation in Trump's trolling of the press during these media briefings, he played a montage of clips of mainstream media personalities questioning the severity of the virus, and criticizing Trump's response, while including several uplifting, almost propagandistic clips.
We suspect the reports in the audience aren't super thrilled right now.
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Update (1750ET): President Trump kicked off the press briefing by swiftly jumping into condolences for the victims of hurricanes that swept across the country on Monday, before he moved on to proclaiming the evidence of "curve flattening" that has emerged in New York, New Jersey and other states, before turning it over to Dr. Fauci.
Dr. Fauci said he spoke with representatives of the black caucus on Monday and had a productive discussion about allocating resources.
Then finally, he addressed the 'hypothetical question' that caused quite a stir over the past 24 hours. He explained that initiating lockdown earlier would have of course saved more lives, but he didn't mean to imply that "somebody was at fault here".
He said the first time they talked about a shutdown, they discussed resistance to such action, but President Trump still took his recommendation and embraced the shutdown when it was decided that this is what the task force would recommend.
"The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and made a formal recommendation to the President, we discussed it, obviously there would be concerns by some that it might have negative consequences. Nonetheless, President Trump went with the mitigation. The next, second, time I went in with Dr. Birx and recommended an extension...he extended it."
"The first and only time I went in and recommended mitigation, the answer was yes."
He said his use of the phrase "pushback" was "the wrong choice of words".
Fauci is officially fed up with journalists. pic.twitter.com/L4wDnmcciU— Kate Hyde (@KateHydeNY) April 13, 2020
When questioned whether he was saying this voluntarily - an inevitable question - Dr. Fauci replied with an eye roll and a "don't even imply that."
"Everything I do is voluntary."
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Update (1750ET): The press briefing is over an hour late...is another row unfolding in the situation room?
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After a wild day that say President Trump feud with the governors over who has the authority to reopen states' economies, while an inexplicable Trump retweet, possibly made in anger, led the press to speculate that the White House might be firing Dr. Fauci - something that liberals would inevitably herald as a huge 'win' for their cause, since most of the American public have placed so much faith in the good doctor that he can now do no wrong.
But the White House has denied those rumors, and the actual quote from the doctor that helped propel these rumors - a comment claiming he had advised beginning lockdowns in February - didn't include any explicit criticisms of Trump, and many probably can probably understand that, at that point in early February, before the US had recorded a single death from the outbreak, shutting down the entire economy would have been a political non-started.
But we digress. The mainstream press has collected plenty of context-free nuggets to lob at the president to try and make the administration look even worse in light of its response to the virus.
With so much talk of reopening, we suspect we might hear more on that subject from the president himself on Monday: