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Saturday April 4th, 2020 11:24PM

Trump to hold news conference as he seeks to calm virus fear

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will hold a press conference to address the spiraling coronavirus pandemic as he seeks to calm a panicked nation amid mixed messages and growing criticism of his administration's scattershot response.

“I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House,” Trump tweeted. “Topic: CoronaVirus!”

The news conference comes as the virus edged ever closer to the world’s power centers, including a positive test for a Brazilian official who spent time with Trump and top administration officials last weekend and an Australian Cabinet minister who met with U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and other top aides.

And it comes as the world has been lurching to try to contain the virus's spread, with millions of students staying home across three continents, large gatherings canceled and more and more bars, restaurants and offices closed.

Trump and his administration have been under intense criticism amid testing failures and following a Wednesday night address to the nation in which Trump sowed confusion as he announced that the U.S. would be dramatically limiting travel from much of Europe.

Trump, who is rare to admit a mistake, told aides within minutes of finishing the speech that he had made an error when he mistakenly said the newly announced travel ban would include cargo, which it doesn't.

The White House would have to take the extraordinary steps of cleaning up multiple errors Trump made in what should have been a tightly-scripted speech.

And the president’s mood grew only darker Thursday — one confidant said it was “as black as it has ever been” — when his words to the nation did little to calm the public or the markets. Trump dialed around to allies while watching cable news coverage of the Wall Street plummet, furious that his efforts to bolster markets did the exact opposite, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

The president has obsessively asked for updates and the impact on the economy and has expressed a reluctance to use the word “bailout” or declare a national emergency for fear that either would rattle the markets further, according to the officials. That's despite the fact that many in the White House, along with Republican allies on the Hill, have been urging him to declare one.

And he has flailed about for someone to blame, at times criticizing former President Barack Obama or turning his ire toward a familiar target, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Trump has repeatedly told those in the White House that testing kits for the virus were on track, even though all facts — and federal health officials — have said otherwise. With the virus only expected to spread further, Trump has begun lashing out at others around him for not doing more to stem the markets’ slide, lighting into Treasury Secretary Mnuchin earlier this week and grumbling to confidants that Vice President Mike Pence has repeatedly contradicted him in briefings, the officials said.

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