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Trump addresses virtual G-20 summit, heads out before session on pandemic

The Hill logo The Hill 5 days ago Celine Castronuovo
a man wearing a hat: Trump addresses virtual G-20 summit, heads out before session on pandemic © Getty Trump addresses virtual G-20 summit, heads out before session on pandemic

President Trump participated in the Group of 20 (G-20) virtual summit early Saturday where he touted the administration's coronavirus actions and push to quickly develop a COVID-19 vaccine before leaving ahead of the start of a side conference on the response to the pandemic.

Trump appeared among nearly two dozen leaders to speak at the start of the summit hosted by Saudi Arabia when it began at 8 a.m. EST, joining via video conference from the White House Situation Room. Soon after the summit began, however, the president started tweeting about the election.

The president then left the White House shortly before 10 a.m. to visit his namesake golf club outside Washington, D.C., as other world leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke during a side event on "Pandemic Preparedness and Response," CNN reported.

The public schedule from the White House indicates that Trump is set to attend another G-20 session Sunday morning. The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment on Trump's absence from the coronavirus session Saturday.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump in his remarks "discussed with other world leaders the need to work together to restore strong economic growth and jobs as we overcome the COVID-19 pandemic."

"During his remarks, President Trump highlighted how the United States marshaled every resource at its disposal to respond to the crisis, as well as the unprecedented economic recovery of the United States on a foundation of tax and regulatory cuts, energy independence, and fair trade deals," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

"He spoke about the aggressive actions and safety measures the United States took to protect the vulnerable, pioneer groundbreaking treatments, and develop vaccines and therapies at record-setting speed, which will save millions of lives. President Trump also reaffirmed the importance of the G20 working together for future economic growth and prosperity," she added.

According to Politico Europe, Trump indicated to other G-20 leaders that he wants U.S. citizens to be the first to receive coronavirus vaccinations.

The president also reportedly claimed that the two vaccines that have showed promising signs this week, one from Moderna and the other by Pfizer and BioNTech, were the result of efforts by U.S. companies. BioNTech is a biotechnology firm based in Germany. Politico reported that Trump's exact plans were not clear to leaders who heard his speech, and the White House did not immediately provide text of Trump's remarks Saturday.

Minutes after the weekend summit began, Trump started tweeting about the election results. The president has consistently refused to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, who was announced as the projected winner by The Associated Press and other major news outlets two weeks ago.

"We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!" read a tweet posted to Trump's account at 8:13 a.m. in response to a joint statement from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the Michigan state House Lee Chatfield on their visit to the White House on Friday.

Trump tweeted several more times amid the G-20 summit, including on tweet claiming there would be "big voter fraud information coming out concerning Georgia."

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) certified the Nov. 3 election results on Friday in favor of Biden, who won the Southern state by more than 12,000 votes.

Trump's morning commentary and absence from the coronavirus side meeting comes as he has faced criticism both within the U.S. and around the world for his response to the pandemic.

The U.S. has reported more than 12 million infections as of Saturday, according to The New York Times coronavirus database.

Leaders who have spoken thus far at the G-20 this weekend have highlighted the importance of a comprehensive and international response to the coronavirus.

Macron said in his remarks that the G-20 faces a "historical responsibility that requires us to move towards uniting international efforts to ensure an effective international response to this crisis," noting that with studies indicating a vaccine could be available in the coming months, the world must ensure equal distribution of a shot.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. currently leads the world in the number of total confirmed coronavirus infections, followed by India at roughly 9 million, Brazil with 6 million and France with 2.1 million cases.

Updated: 4:43 p.m.

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