These characteristics have had a profound impact on the government’s response to the crisis, from Trump’s proposals to withhold support from struggling state governments based on whether he is dissatisfied with a governor to his repeated refusal to take responsibility for shortcomings in the negligent federal response.
Republican strategist John Feehery said he had never worked with a politician who likes criticism, but what is unusual about Trump is that he is willing to run counter programs. He is ready to go on the offensive continuously. “
“He says the quiet part out loud,”
Trump’s daily coronavirus press conferences – as many public health forums as presidential display cases – offer a vivid case study.
For example, on Monday, Trump was asked by Christi Grimm, the chief official of the Inspectorate General of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, for a new report that found that hospitals faced significant testing and shortages of medical care.
The President first asked for the Inspector General’s name and when she was appointed. He hinted that “politics” might have been included in their results – although the Inspectorate General is an independent body specifically designed to track government waste, fraud, and abuse with minimal impartiality.
Trump has been informed that Grimm was appointed to her current position in January, but is a career bureaucrat who previously worked in the Obama administration. He hit on ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who had urged him on the damned results of the report.
“You are a third-rate reporter and what you just said is a shame, okay?” Trump said, adding, “You’ll never make it.”
David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, said the president expected almost everyone around him to make his personal bids, a view that was both “childish” and “dangerous”.
“Trump demands confirmation and does not tolerate control by the media, Congress, and even the inspectors he has appointed,” said Axelrod. “He wants to enforce his version of events and discredit and deactivate all arbitrators who might interfere with his self-glorifying action. That was his instinct in business and politics, and we see it fully in this crisis. “
During his tenure, Trump has often selected other organizations and individuals who aim to be objective – from federal intelligence and law enforcement officers to public health experts and judges.
One example is his relationship with senior law enforcement officers from the Department of Justice. He accused his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, of failing to protect him sufficiently from Special Representative Robert S. Mueller III’s Russian investigation, and publicly tortured him for months before finally firing him.
The media was also a permanent target of Trump’s anger. At almost every coronavirus press conference in the past few days, the president has argued – sometimes apparently on purpose – with reporters who described the press as “false news” and criticized the tone and content of their questions.
In the midst of the deadly pandemic, Trump has reprimanded reporters, not only because of difficult questions, but because they did not flatter and publicly praise him.
At his press conference on Saturday, Trump said at the beginning of his speech that any decision by his government should “save lives.”
“It is therefore important that certain media stop spreading false rumors and cause fear and even panic among the public,” he continued.
Without naming certain publications, Trump accepted the cascade of stories that documented his government’s abuse of critical aspects of the coronavirus response.
“It’s so bad for – for our country, so bad for the world,” Trump concluded. “You should put it together for a while, cope with it, and then go back to your false news.”
During the same press conference, he declined a question about when people should expect their checks to be received from the recently approved $ 2 trillion stimulus as “so negative,” and described another as “always angry with CNN.”
The day before, during Friday’s press conference, Trump was also irritated when asked about comments in which his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner explained that the strategic national supply was intended for the federal government and not the states.
Trump called the question “a gotcha” before telling the reporter, “You should be ashamed.”
“Don’t make it sound bad. Don’t make it sound bad,” the president continued before coming to the conclusion, “you just asked your question in a very angry tone.”
And on Monday, when Trump was discussing the inspector’s general report, he asked the White House press corps for awards. “We have a brand new test system that we developed very quickly. These are your results. You should say,” Congratulations, great job, “instead of being as terrible as you ask a question,” he said.
The president has also argued with many of the nation’s governors who are at the forefront of the fight against the virus. During a Fox News interview last month, he described the relationship as a “one-way street”.
“You have to treat us well too,” said Trump. “You can’t say,” Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get this. “
He has also repeatedly expressed his wish that the governors be publicly grateful to him. “Everything I want them to do – very simple – I want them to be grateful,” Trump said during a press conference in late March.
Many of Trump’s alleged talks with governors took place in a kind of stop-action retelling during daily press conferences. The governors are “happy” – or not – depending on who he spoke to or who was on TV.
In Trump’s tale, Illinois Democratic Governor J. B. Pritzker “constantly” complains on Sunday, but is “a very happy man” on Monday.
New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo, also a Democrat, is another object of special attention from the president – his press conferences and statements are a matter of Trump’s almost daily comments.
“Now they may see you and say,” Oh we’re not happy, “but they’re very happy on the phone,” Trump said on Monday about governors before turning to Vice President Pence for support.
“Mike Pence is a straight shooter and he had a great phone call with all of the governors,” Trump continued. “And they’re very happy. Each of them. Have there been any negatives?”
“No sir,” replied Pence.
In addition to Grimm, the deputy inspector general of the Ministry of Health, Trump recently attacked several other watchdogs. Late Friday, he announced his intention to fire Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of intelligence, whom he had appointed in 2018. Atkinson had classified a whistleblower complaint that Trump called the Ukrainian president as “credible,” which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.
The president also removed the incumbent Pentagon watchdog Glenn Fine, chair of the Federal Panel Congress, which was created to monitor the administration of his government’s $ 2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package on Tuesday.
Trump’s action on Tuesday matches a pattern of hostility with the type of impartial control that an inspector general should apply.
On Monday, Trump snapped at a reporter who had barely received a question about Grimm’s knowledge of testing supplies before Trump switched them off.
“Did I hear the word” Inspector General “?” He asked. “Really? It’s wrong and they’ll talk to you about it. It’s wrong.”
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies authoritarian rulers, said Trump’s daily press conferences have become “propaganda events.”
A leader like Trump, she said, “sees any interview as a challenge, a threat to his power.”
“It’s a very rough mentality, either you’re with me or you’re against me,” she said.