President Donald Trump’s latest coronavirus press briefing once again veered off into one of his grievances, this time that dozens of his nominees to government positions have been upheld in Congress.
Trump threatened to use constitutional authority to adjourn Congress so that he can make recess appointments.
“We have a tremendous number of people that have to come into government, and now more so than ever before because of the virus problem,” Trump said.
Although members of Senate are back in their home districts this month, they are not formally in recess, as they still hold pro forma sessions — a practice that the president called a “scam.”
“We need people for this crisis, and we don’t want to play any political games,” he said.
But as an example, Trump singled out the delay on one of his nominees, Michael Pack, a documentary filmmaker, who he nominated last fall to serve as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The agency oversees government-funded broadcast entities like Voice of America, which has long been one of the president’s targets. An ally of Steve Bannon, Pack has seen his nomination held up as Democrats worry about his influence over content.
Last week, the White House blasted VOA, accusing it of amplifying Chinese government propaganda, and at the press briefing, Trump called VOA’s reporting “disgusting.”
In the face of Trump administration criticism, Amanda Bennett, the director of VOA, issued a lengthy rebuttal on April 10, while noting that they operate under “firewall” to shield it from government interference.
“One of the big differences between publicly-funded independent media, like the Voice of America, and state-controlled media is that we are free to show all sides of an issue and are actually mandated to do so by law as stated in the VOA Charter signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976,” Bennett said. “We are thoroughly covering China’s dis-information and misinformation in English and Mandarin and at the same time reporting factually – as we always do in all 47 of our broadcast languages – on other events in China.”
Trump attack on the Senate confirmation process left some pundits puzzled, not just at the prospect that president would create a constitutional crisis at this time of national emergency, but that in making his case he would single out the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media as just the type of position that needed to be filled to address a health and economic crisis. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked, “Is he trying to create a constitutional crisis over Voice of America?” (Hat tip to Mediate).
The agency has had management turmoil, and critics have questioned Chinese influence in the past, but Trump’s singling of it out gave him yet another chance to do what he most often does at briefings: bash the media. Moreover, it advances a talking point on the right — that the mainstream media is parroting the Beijing party line.
On MSNBC, which, like CNN, cut away at moments during Wednesday’s press conference, Kristen Welker said, “You would have to imagine that a number of his own allies are watching this, scratching their heads, and wondering what the actual announcement is here.”
Tomorrow there will be one: Trump did say that he would roll out guidelines on Thursday that the states might follow as they ponder whether to list stay at home and closure orders.
The biggest news of all may be the arrival of $1,200 “stimulus” payments into the bank accounts for many Americans, with others getting their money via check with Trump’s name on it.
Asked why he had his name added to the checks, Trump said, “Well, I don’t know too much about it, but I understand my name is there. I don’t know where they are going, how they are going. I do understand it is not delaying anything, and I am satisfied with that…I am sure people will be very happy to get a big fat beautiful check and my name is on it.”