Updated: ABC News World News Tonight anchor David Muir landed an interview with Donald Trump during his trip to Arizona on Tuesday, and one of the bigger pieces of news out of the conversation was the president’s acknowledgement that there may be some fatal tradeoffs as states reopen their economies.
Asked if lives will be lost in the desire to ease stay at home orders and other social distancing restrictions, Trump said, “It’s possible there will be some because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is. But at the same time, we’re going to practice social distancing.
He added, “We’re going to be washing hands. We’re going to be doing a lot of the things that we’ve learned to do over the last period of time. And we have to get our country back. When you look at suicides. Take a look at what is going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back, and that is what we are doing.”
Trump said that some people will be affected by decisions to reopen the economy in some states, as governors grapple with historic levels of unemployment.
“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” Trump said.
The interview was a relatively rare instance when Trump sat down with a non-Fox network, as the president has favored the news channel and its rightward opinion hosts. But Muir took some criticism for not challenging Trump on a number of key points, including the president’s insistence that Americans will have access to testing when the country reopens.
Muir, who also serves as managing editor of the newscast, did ask Trump about his frequent blaming of his predecessor, Barack Obama, for leaving an insufficient national stockpile of emergency supplies. The president has said that “the cupboard was bare,” even though that claim has been deemed “mostly false” by Politifact.
Even so, Muir queried the president on why his administration didn’t replenish it in the three years he has been in office.
“Well, to be honest, I have a lot things going on,” Trump said. “We had a lot of people that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on Russia, Russia, Russia that turned out to be a total hoax. And then they did Ukraine, Ukraine, and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president of the United States for absolutely no reason.”
Still, Trump’s claim that he inherited “broken tests” from Obama also went unchallenged. The president has made that claim before at coronavirus press briefings, but it is not entirely clear what he means, as the coronavirus had yet to exist when Obama was in office, making it impossible to create a test for it.
CNN’s fact checker Daniel Dale wrote on Twitter, “A thing about Trump is that he tells the same lies over and over. I have no expectations for ‘interviewers’ from Fox, but it’s not that hard for others who get to talk to him to come prepared and willing to respond with facts.”
Muir did bring up Trump’s claim, at the end of February, when he suggested that the number of coronavirus cases would go down to zero. Trump said then, “When you have 15 people and when the 15 within a couple of days is going to go down to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
Trump responded, “You would say, worse than that I said one person, one time. And it’s true. There was a time when we had one person in this country. We knew about it. We worked on it. But we have one person, it mushroomed, the 15 people, mushroomed. Other people were coming in, also from Europe. Don’t forget.”
Muir repsponded, “But we’re at more than a million cases now.”
Trump said, “But don’t forget, in January — Okay, let’s talk about cases. You know why we’re at a million cases? Because we have more testing than anybody else. If we tested as much as these countries down here, okay, who don’t do very much testing at all. Look at Japan: very little testing. They’re at the bottom of the rung.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Vice President Pence confirmed plans to disband the White House coronavirus task force by the end of the month, even though many health experts believe that the crisis won’t really end until a vaccine is produced. One model showed that there could be as many as 135,000 deaths by August.
“There’ll be more death, that the virus will pass, with or without a vaccine,” Trump told Muir. “And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal. But it’s been a rough process. There is no question about it.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 71,031 deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. and 1,203,673 confirmed cases.
The rest of the interview aired on Nightline and on Good Morning America on Wednesday.
The full transcript is here.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.