After holding news briefings daily at 5 p.m. for weeks, President Trump abruptly ended them in April after being roundly criticized for suggesting the federal government should do research into whether Americans should use disinfectant “by injection inside” or ultraviolet light “inside the body” as a way to fight coronavirus.
Now the news briefings are scheduled to come back at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Why are they starting up again?
The change in plans comes as a time when President Trump has fallen badly behind Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race. There are only about 100 days until Election Day. And the polling is clear why Trump is losing: Americans don’t have confidence in his ability to handle the COVID-19 crisis around the country.
For example, a Fox News national poll found likely voters said they trusted Biden to handle the coronavirus outbreak better than Trump by 17 points.
Further context: the news conference comes when the case counts are now the highest ever and nearly 140,000 Americans are estimated to have died from the disease. Some high-profile Republicans, like Texas Governor Greg Abbott have simply moved on from Trump on the issue.
What will be different?
The White House has signaled that there will be two major changes. First, they will only feature Trump and not other government officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci. Second, while the ones in the past would go on for hours, these are expected to be much shorter.
What will be the same?
These briefings are expected to be almost entirely about the coronavirus. The White House hopes to project that Trump is on the case and providing real information to Americans. However, a White House spokeswoman told the Washington Post that Trump might use the platform to discuss “other pertinent issues.”
What could these pertinent issues be?
- The use of unmarked federal agents on the streets of Portland;
- Intense Capitol Hill negotiations over another coronavirus stimulus bill;
- Biden’s speech a few hours earlier about his own plans for economic recovery;
- His decision to commute Roger Stone’s sentence;
- His suggestion on Fox News Sunday that he would hold up a military spending bill (including pay raises for troops) if the bill begins the process of renaming military bases named after Confederate generals;
- News of Russia trying to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.
It’s easy to see how the news coming out of the briefing won’t just be about the coronavirus.
The biggest question around the news conference
Will Trump wear a face mask to the lectern? One thing that has changed in recent days is President Trump shifting his position on Americans wearing a mask to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
It took nearly 100 days from the start of the outbreak until Trump wore a mask in public (at Walter Reed Medical Center) despite many of his own health officials asking the nation’s citizens to do so. This created a cultural question about the necessity of wearing a mask. In a televised Sunday interview, Trump encouraged Americans to wear a mask, while still saying that people had the freedom not to wear one. But on Monday he tweeted a more pointed suggestion: “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
Whether Trump wears a mask again and whether he encourages Americans “to do the patriotic thing” will be the biggest sign to see if Trump is changing his tune in this new round of news briefings or whether it will be more of the same.