President Donald Trump expressed his condolences Thursday morning to the American victims of the coronavirus pandemic, a day after the US officially reached 100,000 dead and amid a morning tweetstorm in which he tweeted and retweeted political insults and criticisms.
News organizations began reporting the grim milestone late Wednesday afternoon, but Trump – on his 25th tweet or retweet of Thursday morning – didn’t acknowledge it until around 9:30 a.m. ET. The President has regularly downplayed the carnage and ongoing dangers of the pandemic in his eagerness to reopen the country, repeatedly revised his projections of the death toll and tried instead to suggest that the loss of life would have reached into the millions had it not been for actions taken by his administration.
“We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000. To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!” Trump tweeted Thursday.
Before expressing condolences, the President was using his Twitter account as a megaphone for dredging up his arguments about the Russia investigation and airing his allegations of bias against Twitter after it attached fact-checks to some of his tweets. He said Thursday would “be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!,” tweeting what appeared to be a reference to an upcoming executive order, and again mocked Democratic opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask on Memorial Day, something public health officials recommend to help stem the spread. At one point, he retweeted a user who said the image of Biden wearing a black mask “endorses culture of silence, slavery, and social death.”
Asked on Fox News about Trump’s message to families of the victims, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany noted the President’s tweet and suggested that “more than just a statement, the President took action on this.”
“Last week, he lowered the flag to half-staff for several days in anticipation of this number coming up,” she said, going on to say that Trump should get credit for his decisions throughout the pandemic.
Trump has regularly cited the death count during the course of the pandemic as a yardstick for his administration’s success.
“If you look at other countries, what they’ve been through, and you look at the kind of numbers and compare them to ours – which is a much larger country than most – the numbers are pretty amazing,” Trump said at a March press briefing, when he suggested that the death toll “looks like it could be over 50,000.”
At a roundtable with industry executives on reopening the economy on April 29, Trump said, “if you think that we’d be at 65 or 70 or 60 or whatever the final number will be – one is too many.”
In recent weeks, as it became clear the US would lose well over 100,000 people to the virus, he suggested that actions taken by his administration – most notably a travel ban from China – saved up to 2 million American lives.
“For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number,” he tweeted earlier this week. Many public health experts have credited the administration for this step but pointed out that during those crucial early weeks few other steps were taken and the testing problems during this time set the country back.
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He’s also questioned in private whether the figures are being overcounted, though Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress earlier this month that he believes the death toll is likely undercounted.
Biden shared a video about the 100,000 milestone Wednesday night, saying, “There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they’re forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments.”
“I think I know what you’re feeling,” he adds.
According the Trump’s public schedule, the President is not scheduled to participate in any coronavirus-related meetings on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to take part in a coronavirus task force meeting, but the only scheduled public meeting for Trump is a briefing about the upcoming hurricane season.
Trump’s public schedule indicates that the President wasn’t scheduled to attend any task force meetings this week. He did meet with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday to discuss potential infrastructure projects to focus on to restart the state hardest hit by the pandemic.
CNN’s Holly Yan, Steve Almasy and Jay Croft contributed to this report.