US economy

Behind Trump’s Reversal on Reopening the Country: 2 Sets of Numbers


“He looked at them, he understood them, and he shook his head and said, ‘I guess we got to do it,’” Dr. Fauci said on CNN on Monday. That meeting appeared to resonate with Mr. Trump, officials said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close adviser to the president, also said soon before Mr. Trump reversed course that he was counseling the president to look at the arc of the virus. Mr. Graham said the president needed to be focused on a defensive approach to the virus in the spring, taking measures such as the ones he ultimately favored, to be prepared to combat a resurgence in the fall.

Even so, Mr. Trump has continued to paint a rosy picture about the government’s response in the face of widespread criticism. During a conference call with governors on Monday, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination to challenge Mr. Trump this fall, asked the president about the lack of availability of testing for those who had contact with infected Americans.

“I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” Mr. Trump insisted, according to an audiotape of the call provided to The New York Times. He added, “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with a faster one this week.” And he concluded, “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

During his briefing for reporters later in the day, Mr. Trump characterized the governors as praising him. “I think for the most part they were saying thank you for doing a great job,” he said.

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Some Republicans saw a virtue in Mr. Trump’s reversal on reopening the country because of his credibility with his own base, which polls have shown to be somewhat less alarmed about the virus than Democrats.

“Because President Trump initially seemed anxious to open up the economy, his position delaying that should resonate with his base of voters,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster. “It will probably have the impact of making those who want it opened sooner a little more patient.”

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Jonathan Martin contributed reporting from Washington.



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