White House may alter coronavirus briefings to limit Donald Trump's role

FILE PHOTO: US President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in Washington | Photo: AP/PTI
From next week, US President Donald Trump might ‘pare back’ his daily coronavirus task force briefings, which usually last more than two hours a day. There has been a concerted effort among his aides and allies to get the President to cut short his daily briefings on coronavirus, which has so far killed over 50,000 Americans. On Friday, too, Trump took no questions from reporters to be able to shorten the daily coronavirus task force briefing.

There have been discussions within the White House about changing the format of the briefings to curtail the president's role, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

The briefings often stretch for nearly two hours and feature combative exchanges between Trump and reporters.

Trump was angry after a day of punishing headlines on Friday, largely about his comment at the previous evening's briefing where he wondered if it would be helpful to inject disinfectant into people to fight the coronavirus. That idea drew loud warnings from health experts — who said it was dangerous — and sharp criticism from Democrats.

Trump did answer questions from reporters earlier on Friday and claimed that his suggestion about disinfectant had been sarcastic." That doesn't square with a transcript of his remarks.

For weeks, advisors have been urging the President to scale back his appearances at the briefings, saying that he should come before the cameras only when there is major news or a positive development to discuss, according to the officials. Otherwise, they suggested, he should leave it to Vice-President Mike Pence and health officials to take the lead.

Trump has been reluctant to cede the spotlight at the briefings, which are the closest thing he currently has to his political rallies.

He has talked up their robust television ratings and his ability to dominate the news cycle and drown out his likely general election opponent, Democrat Joe Biden. But advisers have argued that while the briefings may appeal to his most loyal base of supporters, they could be alienating some viewers, including senior citizens worried about their health.

Officials at Trump's reelection campaign have also noted a slip in Trump's support in some battleground states and have expressed concerns that the briefings, which often contain inaccurate information, may be playing a role.

Trump, who is known for changing his mind, has not committed to any permanent change in the briefing format, the officials said. It was unclear if Trump's decision not to take questions on Friday was connected to a kerfuffle in the briefing room moments before the task force presentation began.

A White House official had asked that two reporters switch seats, which would have sent the CNN correspondent farther back in the room. CNN is a frequent target of Trump's criticism. The reporters declined to move

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