President Donald Trump, whose administration is under increasing pressure and criticism for its response to the coronavirus outbreak, lashed out in a Twitter tirade Monday morning that came as global markets tumbled from coronavirus fallout and Joe Biden appeared to be surging toward the Democratic nomination.
Trump blasted the media, accusing it of colluding with Democrats in trying to “inflame the CoronaVirus situation.” He accused the Democratic Party of trying to “smear” Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost his front-runner status to Biden in a Super Tuesday rout. And the president attacked his predecessors: “The Obama/Biden Administration is the most corrupt Administration in the history of our Country.”
The Trump administration and the president himself are under fire for what has been called a sluggish and flawed response to the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.
Critical reports, including by The Atlantic, The Washington Post and NBC News, have painted a portrait of a White House in an enhanced state of chaos. Some members of the administration, according to reports, have been calling for a more robust response since the early days of the outbreak. Others, including Trump and his top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, have sought to play down the severity of the outbreak.
Later Monday morning on Twitter, Trump lauded his administration’s response to the disease, taking credit for saving “many lives” and complimenting the task force being led by Vice President Mike Pence.
He added in a follow up: “So much FAKE NEWS!”
The president had spent the weekend in Florida, and was he scheduled to remain there Monday morning to participate in a fundraiser and chat with supporters before returning to the White House in the afternoon.
CNBC reported that Trump will be presented with a “full menu” of economic options to respond to the virus after he gets back to the White House.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States ballooned to at least 564 over the weekend, while at least 22 people have died from it in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally. Globally, more than 111,000 have been infected, and at least 3,890 have died.
Markets are in turmoil due in large part to the spread of the disease and its impact on trade and consumer demand.
The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 1,800 points at the start of trading Monday. Global equities markets saw broad declines across the board, leading to a quick halt in stock trading shortly after the market opened.
Oil prices plunged, too, as demand fears pushed OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Russia into a price war. Trump has long touted the stock market’s success during his term as a key argument for his policies.
The White House declined to comment when asked for the administration’s reaction to the stock market plunge.
Biden, who surpassed Sanders in the delegate count after an astonishing performance on Super Tuesday and has fed his momentum with a slew of key endorsements, looked to cement his lead in the next round of primary contests Tuesday. All eyes were on Michigan, the delegate-rich swing state in which polls showed Biden with a commanding lead over Sanders.
A week before Super Tuesday, Biden’s campaign appeared to have lost nearly all of its momentum to Sanders, who had triumphed in the Nevada caucuses and enjoyed a healthy lead in delegates.
But Biden’s turnaround in South Carolina on Feb. 29 set the stage for a massive haul on Super Tuesday, when 14 states held their nominating contests.
The former veep to Barack Obama had been a prime target of Trump’s ire from the time he entered the 2020 race. Trump even asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into allegations of corruption against Biden and his son Hunter through their connections to a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Those efforts, seen by critics as an attempt to smear the possible Democratic presidential nominee with the taint of a corruption probe, prompted the Democrat-led House to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The president was acquitted of both articles of impeachment in the GOP-held Senate.
With Biden back on top, Trump has taken aim at him once again.
“I will protect your Social Security and Medicare, just as I have for the past 3 years. Sleepy Joe Biden will destroy both in very short order, and he won’t even know he’s doing it!” Trump tweeted Friday, one of his first direct attacks against Biden since Super Tuesday.
The Biden campaign denounced the president’s attacks. “Why the hell is Donald Trump spending his time tweeting Breitbart fanfiction when he should be leading the country’s response to the coronavirus?” spokesman Andrew Bates said.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Although COVID-19 emerged squarely within the bounds of Trump’s term in office, the president has even suggested that the Obama administration bears blame for a lack of testing kits available in the U.S.
“The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing,” Trump claimed without providing evidence during a March 4 roundtable event at the White House. “And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion.”
On Monday, after attacking the Obama-Biden administration, Trump again defended his own response to the outbreak.
Trump complimented Pence, who was put in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. And he took credit for saving “many lives” by implementing travel restrictions and quarantines in late January.
Trump’s public schedule has him spending much of his day at campaign fundraising events in Florida before he travels back to the White House later Monday afternoon. The White House is also scheduled to hold a coronavirus task force media briefing at 5:30 p.m. ET.