President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure top Republican donors over the weekend that they have everything under control when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump, who attended a Republican National Committee donor retreat at his private resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, told financiers Friday that his administration is making public health and safety a No. 1 priority, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. They declined to be named since these remarks were delivered in private.
The virus has infected more than 550 people in the United States, killing more than 20. More than 111,000 people have been infected worldwide, while more than 3,800 have died.
Pence, who was tapped by Trump to lead the White House coronavirus task force, spoke to donors at the retreat on Saturday. He echoed what the president said a day earlier, these people added.
The retreat followed Trump's visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where the president told reporters that anyone who wants to be tested for the coronavirus "gets a test." Pence had noted Thursday that he doesn't anticipate the administration will be able to meet the demand for the tests.
Trump's and Pence's words of assurance to donors come as the president is facing political backlash for what his critics describe as a sluggish response from the federal government. The comments to the donors suggest that Trump's political operation is concerned that the administration's handling of the virus could hurt his standing with donors as well as voters.
The Trump campaign, along with joint fundraising committees and the RNC itself, has had historic returns from donors in the 2020 election cycle. They've brought in $86 million, combined, in February. Since the beginning of 2019, the four entities have raked in over $600 million, with over $225 million on hand.
Representatives from the White House, Trump campaign and RNC did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump was scheduled to appear at another fundraising event Monday, at the Florida home of businessman Bob Dello Russo. After that meeting, he plans to head back to the White House to huddle with economic aides to discuss how to possibly inject some form of economic stimulus while the market tanks on coronavirus fears.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked more than 1,900 points at the open on Monday, while the S&P 500 plunged more than 7%. The massive sell-off triggered a key market circuit breaker in morning trading.
Before the market started to decline, Trump took aim at one of his chief political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. Jon Cooper, one of Biden's close allies, tweeted out a day earlier that if the former vice president is elected president, he will "re-open the White House office for global health security and boost its funding."