Instead of running the message, or trying to pay attention to Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump’s aides were mostly paralyzed as he tried to respond to an audio recording of his boss, speaking openly with Mr. Woodward, Admitted that they intentionally reduced the risk of the virus. Government officials said it was “in the air” well before the “panic” escaped and the virus was announced.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump announced a surprise news conference where he had nothing to announce. He simply entered the briefing room to reiterate the incorrect statements about the administration’s coronavirus response, against the revelations in Mr. Woodward’s book.
Mr. Trump often feels compelled to defend himself, but it almost always keeps a story alive. “I didn’t lie,” he said on Thursday to explain why he told Mr. Woodward that the virus was “deadly stuff” and admitted that it was even more deadly than “your hard flu”, while the public Told the contrary. He also claimed that “everyone knew it was Hawaii” back in February.
Woodward came to Fasco several days after an article in The Atlantic consumed Mr. Trump’s more damaging narrative. The article described a history of the president, citing unnamed sources, with statements about members of the military. As the furore over the story was ending on Monday, Labor Day holiday, Mr. Trump breathed new life by holding a news conference and talking about it again.
Mr. Trump’s advisors would like him to change the race to the election between himself and Mr. Biden. Instead, Mr. Trump is turning the campaign into a referendum in itself.
“Donald Trump basically does not appear to be in control of the news cycle because he is not in control of events,” said Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist who is a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, and who supports anti-Trump The Lincoln Project Group. “The country is deeply out of control.”
Mr. Schmidt, who President George W.W. Bush, who was advised to run for re-election in 2004, said that in the final weeks of the presidency, the person who holds the referendum is often the loser. Right now, he said, “The race is largely about Trump, and he tries to do everything that’s not working to change the subject.”