Trump’s furious ‘bedroom’ tweet
Donald Trump has angrily rejected claims about his "work schedule and eating habits", amid reports the US President is growing frustrated at the public response to his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The New York Times reported last week that Mr Trump "arrives in the Oval Office these days as late as noon, when he is usually in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television" where "the President sees few allies no matter which channel he clicks".
In the evenings, Mr Trump continues watching TV in his private dining room with aides as they rehash the day, with "comfort food, including French Fries and Diet Coke … readily available", according to the report citing "more than a dozen administration officials and close advisers".
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Mr Trump said he had been described as "the hardest working President in history" and slammed the "phony" story written by "a third-rate reporter who knows nothing about me".
"I work from early in the morning until late at night, haven't left the White House in many months (except to launch Hospital Ship Comfort) in order to take care of Trade Deals, Military Rebuilding etc.," he tweeted.
"And then I read a phony story in the failing @nytimes about my work schedule and eating habits, written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me. I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & read & see that I am angrily eating a hamburger & Diet Coke in my bedroom. People with me are always stunned. Anything to demean!"
The people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history. I don’t know about that, but I am a hard worker and have probably gotten more done in the first 3 1/2 years than any President in history. The Fake News hates it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2020
....schedule and eating habits, written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me. I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & read & see that I am angrily eating a hamburger & Diet Coke in my bedroom. People with me are always stunned. Anything to demean!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2020
It comes as the White House plans to shift Mr Trump's public focus to the burgeoning efforts aimed at easing the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, after two months of frantic response to the coronavirus.
Days after he publicly mused that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Mr Trump has now rejected the utility of his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with scientific experts.
Mr Trump's aides are aiming to move the President onto more familiar - and safer, they hope - ground: talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings.
It's a political imperative as allies have seen an erosion in support for the President.
What had been his greatest asset in the re-election campaign - his ability to blanket news headlines with freewheeling performances - has become a daily liability.
At the same time, new Republican Party polling shows Mr Trump's path to a second term depends on the public's perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.
Some states have started to ease closure orders, and Mr Trump is expected to begin to highlight his administration's work in helping businesses and employees.
Aides said the President would hold more frequent roundtables with CEOs, business owners and beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars in federal aid already approved by Congress, and begin to outline what he hopes to see in a future recovery package.
Mr Trump last left the White House grounds a month ago, and plans are being drawn up for a limited schedule of travel within the next few weeks, an aide said.
It would be a symbolic show that the nation is beginning to reopen. The shift comes in conjunction with what the White House sees as encouraging signs across the country, with the pace of new infections stabilising and deaths declining.
Still, medical experts warn that the virus will remain until at least a vaccine is developed and that the risk of a severe second wave is high if social distancing is relaxed too quickly or if testing and contact tracing schemes aren't developed before people return to normal behaviours.
The White House is deliberating whether to continue to hold news briefings in a modified form without Mr Trump, potentially at a different location.
Before Mr Trump said in a tweet on Saturday that they were "Not worth the time & effort", aides had been eager to use the briefings to highlight positive trends and to overwhelm Americans with statistics.
It was an effort to restore confidence in the response so that the public would be comfortable resuming more normal activities.
"We know that's important," Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator, told Fox News Channel's Sunday Morning Futures.
"We understand those messages of science and policy need to be brought forward to the American people in a non-political way."
Few Americans regularly look to or trust Mr Trump as a source of information on the pandemic, according to a survey from The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research released last week.
On Monday, the White House was expected to release a recap of what the federal government has done so far to improve the availability of COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and ventilators.
Still, governors in both parties say much more is needed, particularly in testing, in the coming months, as they deliberate how and when to reopen their states.
"I want to get our economy back open just as soon as we can, but I want to do so in a safe way so we don't have a spike, we don't cause more deaths, or an overloading of our health care system," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, told ABC's This Week.
Dr Birx expressed frustration that Mr Trump's injection comments were still in the headlines, illustrating the tensions that have emerged between the President and his medical advisers.
"As a scientist and a public health official and a researcher, sometimes, I worry that we don't get the information to the American people that they need, when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night," she said on CNN's State of the Union.
As the White House hopes it has turned a corner, it is also beginning to assess responsibility for critical missteps.
Two senior administration officials said Mr Trump has begun discussions about replacing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who led the coronavirus task force during its initial weeks and has been blamed for a culture of bureaucratic infighting during that period.
Mr Azar has been largely sidelined since Vice President Mike Pence took charge of the task force in late February.
Mr Trump on Sunday denied that he was going to fire Mr Azar in a tweet, saying, "Alex is doing an excellent job!"