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Trump says push for less coronavirus testing was sarcasm

POLITICO logo POLITICO 6/26/2020 By Jordan Muller
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he had “sarcastically” claimed that a decrease in coronavirus testing would lower U.S. infection rates, adding a new twist to the weeklong scramble by the White House to clarify the president’s comments on virus testing.

“Sometimes I jokingly say, or sarcastically say, if we didn’t do tests we would look great,” Trump said in an interview during a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity. “But you know what? It’s not the right thing to do.”

The president’s comments come nearly a week after he claimed at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., that he’d ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing. Trump on Tuesday insisted he was serious in slowing down testing, even after senior White House officials said the president made the comment in jest.

“I don’t kid,” Trump said when pressed by reporters on Tuesday. “Let me make it clear.”

The president’s comments at the Tulsa rally sparked days of jockeying by officials and White House aides to defend the president’s statements. Vice President Mike Pence told governors that the president’s comments on testing were a “passing observation,” while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump’s claim was “made in jest.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House committee on Tuesday that the Trump administration was ramping up testing, not slowing it down.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, a fact that Trump has repeatedly attributed to expanded virus testing. More than 2.4 million people have had confirmed Covid-19 infections nationwide, and nearly 125,000 people have died.

“If we didn’t do testing, we would have no cases,” Trump said at the town hall on Thursday in Wisconsin, echoing statements he has made over the last week on Twitter.

Trump also said on Thursday that he expected a coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year.


Video: Trump says he wanted COVID testing slowed. WH again says he's joking. (MSNBC)

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