Donald Trump spent his Monday campaigning through Arizona while slamming Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, and claiming most Americans are simply over the coronavirus even as the sometimes-deadly disease spreads in almost every state.
The president delivered an off-the-cuff assessment of the widely respected government scientist, telling campaign staffers on a conference call Mr Fauci has been a “disaster.” Mr Trump has accurately noted the senior National Institutes of Health official initially said face-coverings were not necessary, only to later say masks would help slow the spread of the virus.
“Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Mr Trump said on the call, according to CNN. “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less.”
Hours later, addressing another large campaign rally crowd Mr Trump described the country as “pandemic’d out.” Some Americans’ behaviour suggest he is right, from his packed battleground state rallies to crowded restaurant patios in blue states. On the campaign call, he described Americans as “tired” of hearing about Covid-19.
The president appeared to be responding to critical words Mr Fauci had about a White House event honouring Amy Coney Barrett, his latest Supreme Court nominee, earlier this month that is believed to be the event that gave the president and a number of White House aides the virus.
"When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that's got to be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event,” Mr Fauci told a CBS News interviewer on 60 Minutes.
Mr Trump appeared before two big crowds on Monday in the Grand Canyon State, few wearing masks and no one socially-distanced. He again said the country is “rounding the turn” in combating the virus – despite a recent uptick in Arizona and most other states.
“People are pandemic’d out,” he said to cheers before boasting of his own recovery from what his military doctor said was a bout with Covid-19. “Superman! Superman!” his backers chanted, a reference to the comic book superhero the president claims he felt like after a round of drugs at Walter Reed military hospital earlier this month.
The president continued trying to paint Mr Biden as “corrupt” and unfit for the highest elected office in the country, saying he is one of the most crooked American politicians ever.
“Joe Biden is and always was a corrupt politician. Now they have the laptop,” the president said, referring to a New York Post report last week that alleged a computer repair owner uncovered emails to and from Hunter Biden trying to use the VP’s office “as a for-profit cash machine,” as the president put it Monday afternoon
“And it’s over. It’s over,” the president said of the laptop that contained the alleged electronic notes,“ which Mr Trump called “smoking gun emails.”
More and more, Mr Trump is merely running his 2016 playbook when it comes to alleging his Democratic foe is corrupt. Remember “Crooked Hillary”?
Just like four years ago, as he gets into his rhetorical takedown of the former VP and son Hunter Biden over allegations the son profted off access to his father while he was in the second-highest office in the land, his crowds, like the one in Tucson, break into a familiar chant.
“Lock him up!” they chanted under a late-afternoon sun.
The president continued distorting Mr Biden’s policy proposals, including by ignoring the former VP’s proposal of expand police departments and increase their funding.
He accused his rival and other Democrats of working to “incite riots,” adding: “Unlike Joe Biden, I will always support the heroes of law enforcement.”
The president strode onto the stage in Tucson for his second rally in the state as Mr Biden’s lead stood at 8.9 percentage points nationally. Mr Trump is in the middle of a homestretch blitz across a number of swing states, including the Grand Canyon State.
He trails there by 3.1 points, according to the RealClear average after winning the state in 2016 by just under 4 points.
At his first rally of the day, in Prescott, Mr Trump made a direct plea to the state’s Hispanic voters. He warned Mr Biden would undermine their Catholic faith and hinder their standing in communities in Arizona as “great business people.”
“I’ve always liked Hispanics,” Mr Trump said. “And they like me. … Joe Biden would obliterate everything that Hispanic Americans have worked for."
Mr Trump also used his first stop to contend Mr Biden and son Hunter Biden are “corrupt” and may have committed crimes over the son’s business dealings and alleged exploitation of access to his then-VP father. As the crowd at a Prescott airport chanted “lock him up” about Hunter Biden, Mr Trump left his lectern and nodded.
The first stop of the day also saw Mr Trump lay into CNN over its amount of coronavirus coverage, calling its hosts “dumb bastards” for talking so much about a pandemic the president says the country is over.
“They're getting tired of the pandemic, aren't we? You turn on CNN. That's all they cover,” he said to boos. “Covid, covid, pandemic. Covid, covid, covid. They're trying to talk people out of voting. … People aren't buying it, CNN, you dumb bastards.”
The large crowd responded with a loud cheer.