President Trump rounded out America's worst week yet of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic with a return to the White House briefing room podium where, after an uncharacteristically demure performance the previous evening, he resumed the rambling, free-wheeling, grievance-riddled burlesque we've come to expect from his regular updates.
During the briefing, the president used a question about the World Health Organization as an opportunity to rant about how he fixed America's standing in the World Trade Organization, insisted that he could overrule state governors anytime he wants but wouldn't because of a little thing "I call... the Constitution," and described atmospheric carbon levels as being "at its all time best right now."
But perhaps most notable during the president's remarks was his bizarre claim that he'd told Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation's leading epidemiologist working on the administration's coronavirus response — to move to Queens, New York, in order to unseat first-term Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Trump's weird joke — "I kid by the way," he insisted — was made even weirder by the fact that it came in response to a question of whether or not he planned listen to medical experts when it comes to if, when, and how to regain something resembling pre-pandemic normalcy.
The dynamic between Fauci and Trump has been a source of intense speculation of late, with the doctor frequently, if gently, contradicting the president with medical advice after Trump spouts off random claims. Fauci had been absent for some of the regular press briefings, prompting the doctor to later defend his relationship with a famously testy president in an interview with Washington, D.C.-area radio station WMAL. "When I’ve made suggestions, he’s taken them," Fauci said of the president. "He’s never countered or overridden me."
"The idea of pitting one against the other is just not helpful," Fauci continued.
Trump meanwhile faced criticism this week from his media allies and figures within his own party for turning his daily coronavirus briefings into somewhat of a circus. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of deep-red West Virginia told The New York Times that the events sometimes "[go] off the rails a little bit."
Perhaps mindful of their objections, Trump at one point during Friday's appearance polled the reporters in the room if he should "keep it going." "If I leave short, yesterday I left short, 'It was too short'," Trump said, apparently referring to coverage that noted Thursday's briefing was 20 minutes where others have been several hours. "If I stay too long, they say it was too long."
"Someday," he added, "I'm gonna get it just right."