Republican officials are privately bracing for the possibility that a virus-hit US economy could hurt Trump in the election | Markets Insider
The White House has attempted in recent days to downplay the effects the novel coronavirus could have on US growth. But behind closed doors, Republican officials have started to worry a faltering economy could undermine President Donald Trump's strongest case for re-election. "It's a concern," a Senate Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss internal party views told Business Insider. Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
The White House has attempted in recent days to downplay the effects the novel coronavirus could have on US growth. But behind closed doors, Republican officials have started to worry a faltering economy could undermine President Donald Trump's strongest case for re-election. "It's obvious that a stock market crash ... might affect the election," said a senior administration official familiar with the thinking of those involved in the White House response to the coronavirus outbreak. The official, who was granted anonymity by Business Insider to speak candidly about the president, acknowledged there was an awareness of potential political implications among members of the task force in charge of the respiratory illness COVID-19. "We are driven by science to protect the American people," the official said. "But of course, administrations are judged by how they respond to challenges like this one." Financial markets extended sharp losses this week after the Centers for Disease Control warned the coronavirus, which has spread outside of China to more than three dozen countries, would almost certainly hit communities throughout the US. Shuttered operations and supply chain disruptions are expected to chip away at gross domestic product this year, raising Republican alarm about the Nov. 3 election on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. "It's a concern," a Senate Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss internal party views told Business Insider. "But how many voters would actually hold a president accountable for a faltering economy due to a pandemic originating in China?" Trump has continued to campaign on the wave of economic populism that helped propel him to the White House in 2016, even turning to some of them in the face of the outbreak. He blamed the Federal Reserve and Democrats on Wednesday for the market sell-off, seizing on arguments his supporters have coalesced behind in the past. "If you're in for Donald Trump right now, you're likely all-in," said Douglas Heye, a former communications director at the Republican National Committee. "Should the coronavirus situation grow, these will be the potential problems for Trump. But that has not happened yet, and his base is solidly locked down." Still, Trump has repeatedly hailed GDP and the stock market as the central yardsticks of his stewardship. While those are politically important for any presidential incumbent, Trump has uniquely polled far better on the economy than on his overall performance in office. "That is something the White House will keep a close eye on," said David Kochel, a veteran Republican operative based in Iowa. "If the strong economy has been Trump's greatest strength, a downturn would obviously be a problem."SEE ALSO: White House officials express hopes that coronavirus will advance 'America First' agenda Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 62 new emoji and emoji variations were just finalized, including a bubble tea emoji and a transgender flag. Here's how everyday people submit their own emoji.
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Trump has one of his most authoritarian weeks yet as president as the US surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths
The same week that the US surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, President Donald Trump threatened protesters...The same week that the US surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, President Donald Trump threatened protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with lethal force. Minneapolis has been consumed by unrest in recent days over the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, who died after an officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes. In tweets, Trump threatened to send in the National Guard and said, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Between threatening deadly force against US citizens, spreading misinformation on the 2020 election, and issuing an executive order against social media companies, this has been Trump's most authoritarian week as president yet. "[Trump] has always preached violence for whites against others, and he will keep to this line as the election nears," a New York University historian told Insider. "This is what American authoritarianism looks like." Barely a day after the US surpassed 100,000 reported coronavirus deaths, a grim milestone that no other country has come close to exceeding, President Donald Trump threatened the use of lethal force against American citizens. In response to the unrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was catalyzed by the brutal police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, the president threatened to send in the National Guard to shoot looters. Floyd was killed in broad daylight after officers responded to a "forgery in progress." An officer knelt on Floyd's neck for roughly eight minutes, ultimately leading to his death. "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way," Trump tweeted. "Any difficulty, and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!" Twitter flagged Trump's tweet as "glorifying violence." The White House later shot back on — where else? — Twitter, claiming the social media site was trying to censor Trump. Hours after, Trump attempted to walk back his "when the looting starts the shooting starts" comment, claiming it was spoken as "a fact, not as a statement." But all this social media fury is smoke and mirrors: As the president seeks to deflect from his botched response to COVID-19, and runs for reelection with the US as the epicenter of the pandemic and the nation's economy in shambles, his rhetoric and actions have become increasingly autocratic. "This is what American authoritarianism looks like," Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian and expert on authoritarianism at New York University, told Insider. "Trump showed us his allegiances in 2015 and 2016 to white supremacy in America when he hired Steve Bannon, retweeted neo-Nazi memes during his campaign, and backed armed militias," Ben-Ghiat said. "It's entirely predictable that he would call protesters of police violence against African-Americans thugs but praise armed men who invade state capitals as 'liberators.' He has always preached violence for whites against others, and he will keep to this line as the election nears." Trump's threat of military force against US citizens came the same day he signed an executive order to crack down on social media, intended to curtail legal protections for major companies after Twitter fact-checked his false tweets. Free speech experts said the order represented a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment, which protects people and entities from the government — not the other way around. The vindictive nature of Trump's executive order aimed at social media companies has raised alarm among experts and former US officials. "Trump targeting Twitter in executive order is analogous to spitting into a hurricane of 1st Amendment freedoms," John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, said in a tweet. Dean described the executive order as an "authoritarian attack." "That Trump even has a desire to shut down @Twitter underscores his authoritarian proclivities," Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, tweeted on Friday. Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College, said that Trump's threat to "close down private sector businesses because he doesn't like what they publish" represented the "words of an authoritarian" and asked how people would respond if a leader from another country went down this road. The president on Thursday also shared a tweet featuring a video in which one of his supporters said the "only good Democrat is a dead Democrat," effectively endorsing violence against Americans who are not members of his party. Meanwhile, Trump has disseminated blatantly false information on the 2020 election, misleadingly telling the public that if people are allowed to vote by mail, it will necessarily mean the election is "rigged." These repeated, erroneous assertions from the president prompted Ellen Weintraub, a Federal Elections Commissioner, to tweet: "There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None." The president has long exhibited autocratic tendencies, but he's taken this to new heights in recent days. In free, democratic societies, it's not normal for leaders to threaten deadly violence against their citizens in any context, nor is it routine for them to seek to undermine elections with misinformation about the voting process. Our political system prevents Trump from realizing his ambition of becoming a full-blown authoritarian, but his praise for dictators and the ways in which he's mirrored their behavior has already done immense damage to America's democracy. While Trump threatens violence against demonstrators in Minneapolis, some experts in recent months have called for the public to push back against the president and the erosion of democratic norms under his watch. "There need to be mass protests," Jason Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor and author of "How Fascism Works," told Insider. "The Republican Party is betraying democracy, and these are historic times. Someone has got to push back."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
Trump's new press secretary called his comments 'racist' and 'hateful' in 2015 and described him as a 'sideshow'
In 2015, Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump's newly-installed White House press secretary, called Trump a "racist"...In 2015, Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump's newly-installed White House press secretary, called Trump a "racist" and said he made "derogatory" and "hateful" comments about Mexican immigrants, CNN reported. "Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don't think he is a serious candidate," McEnany said in television segments on CNN and Fox Business in 2015. "I think it is a sideshow." But McEnany's apparently strong distaste for Trump's politics and rhetoric didn't prevent her from quickly transforming into a fierce defender of his as he dominated the Republican primary. McEnany is one of several people in Trump's orbit who attacked him, called him an authoritarian, and said he was unfit for office before joining his ranks. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Before Kayleigh McEnany, President Donald Trump's newly-installed White House press secretary, became one of Trump's most aggressive defenders, she thought he was "a progressive" who made "racist" comments about Mexican immigrants. In television segments on CNN and Fox Business in 2015, newly unearthed by CNN, McEnany repeatedly made the case that Trump wasn't a Republican and that he intentionally used inflammatory rhetoric to rile up the right-wing base. Shortly after Trump officially joined the presidential race in June 2015, McEnany argued that Trump's claim that Mexican immigrants are "rapists" was "racist." "To me, a racist statement is a racist statement. I don't like what Donald Trump said," she said during an appearance on CNN, adding that the remarks were "derogatory" and "hateful." McEnany argued that "mainstream Republican[s]" don't want to deport undocumented immigrants, a process she said is "not the American way," and that they instead support "some path to citizenship." She added, "Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don't think he is a serious candidate. I think it is a sideshow. It's not within the mainstream of the candidates." McEnany also called Trump a "Republican in name only," pointing to his past donations to Democrats and policy positions. "I don't want to claim this guy," she added. "Donald Trump, if we're going to be honest, is a progressive. He supports eminent domain. He supported tax increases before. He's donated $300,000 to Democratic candidates. So, the fact that the Republican Party is now having to claim him, is both unfortunate, and to me, inauthentic. Because this is not a true Republican candidate. And the fact that he's being portrayed as such in media is troublesome and not accurate." But McEnany's apparently strong distaste for Trump's politics and rhetoric didn't prevent her from quickly transforming into a fierce defender of his as he dominated the Republican primary. "Those comments are despicable," she said in October 2016, after The Washington Post reported on a lewd tape in which Trump boasted about grabbing women by the genitals. But "he apologized for them," McEnany said. When asked whether he was advocating for sexual assault, McEnany disagreed, saying, "He said he starts to kiss a woman and then they let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent." McEnany left her job as a paid CNN commentator in 2017 to appear in pro-Trump "news" videos produced at Trump Tower that many compared to state-sponsored TV. She later joined Trump's 2020 reelection campaign as its main spokesperson, and earlier this year, she made her debut as his fourth press secretary, succeeding Stephanie Grisham, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer in a communications office that has experienced near-constant turnover. McEnany is one of several figures in Trump's orbit who previously attacked him and said he was unfit for office before joining his camp. Kellyanne Conway, a senior counselor to the president and one of his most ardent defenders on the airwaves, described him as a grifter during the 2016 campaign, when she was a cable news commentator. Trump "says he's for the little guy, but he's actually built a lot of his businesses on the backs of the little guy," Conway said in February 2016. She excoriated then-candidate Trump for "not paying contractors" who worked on his projects and said the "little guys have suffered" because of his actions. In 2016, now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Trump would be an "authoritarian president" who would violate international law. He's now one of Trump's most loyal and trusted advisers, and has played a critical role in the administration's handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also struck a similar tone during the 2016 campaign, describing Trump as a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot." Today, Graham is one of Trump's biggest attack dogs on Capitol Hill and has repeatedly gone to bat for him at several critical junctures, like the confirmation hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and during Trump's own impeachment hearings and subsequent trial in the Senate.SEE ALSO: Meet Kayleigh McEnany, the combative 31-year-old Trump defender and next White House press secretary Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths
Trump has taken up 60% of White House coronavirus briefings, dedicating much of his time to attacks and false information, analysis shows
President Donald Trump swallowed up 60% of the speaking time at daily White House briefings on...President Donald Trump swallowed up 60% of the speaking time at daily White House briefings on coronavirus since mid-March, a Washington Post analysis found, talking for over 28 hours in 35 briefings since March 16. From April 6 to April 24, Trump spent 45 minutes praising himself and his administration, and two hours attacking others, according to the analysis. And he spent less than five minutes offering condolences to victims of the pandemic during that time. Trump has faced near-universal criticism since Thursday's briefing, in which he suggested disinfectants could be injected to cure coronavirus. His comments were widely condemned as dangerous. The president spoke for just 30 minutes at Friday's briefing and took no questions. No briefing was held on Saturday, as Trump tweeted that the press conferences are "not worth the time and effort." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump has dominated the lectern at daily White House press briefings on the novel coronavirus since mid-March, speaking 60% of the time, according to an analysis from the Washington Post. In total, the president spoke for over 28 hours in 35 briefings since March 16, according to the analysis, which translated into less time for feedback from top medical experts who generally appear at the briefings, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. Trump spent a significant chunk of briefings in the past several weeks boasting, attacking rivals, and spreading false information. In a third of Trump's responses to questions from reporters (113 out of 346) he launched into attacks, while providing false or misleading information in almost a quarter of his remarks. The president spent 45 minutes praising himself and his administration and two hours on attacks in the past three weeks (April 6 to April 24), the Post found, but less than five minutes offering condolences to victims of the pandemic. Trump has faced consistent, bipartisan criticism over his demeanor at White House press conferences on coronavirus, which has come in concert with negative polling for the president that's showed a majority of Americans dissaprove of his handling of the pandemic. And an Insider poll released last month found that Trump was among the least trusted officials when it came to guidance on coronavirus. The president has been charged with substituting the briefings for his raucous campaign rallies, which can't safely take place due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the US is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with the most reported cases and confirmed fatalities of any country in the world. The backlash to his antics at the briefings reached new heights in recent days after Trump on Thursday suggested disinfectant could be injected to treat coronavirus. In the same press conference, Trump pondered aloud whether bringing "light" inside the body could serve as a cure. The president's remarks came after Bill Bryan, the head of the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, discussed research regarding how COVID-19 reacted to sunlight. But there's absolutely no evidence that injecting oneself with a disinfectant, such as bleach, works as a cure for coronavirus and doing so could be dangerous and even deadly. In the wake of Trump's comments, manufacturers of cleaning products like Lysol and Dettol issued warnings against ingesting or injecting disinfectants. Doctors and public health experts have raised concerns since Trump's remarks on disinfectants, worrying about the potentially fatal consequences if people take the president's suggestions seriously. Trump did not take any questions at Friday's press briefing after speaking for only 30 minutes. There was no briefing on Saturday, nor was a press conference scheduled for Sunday. Amid reports that Republican leaders are becoming increasingly concerned that Trump is hurting his reelection chances with his performances at the press conferences, the president on Saturday tweeted that the briefings are "not worth the time and effort."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths