On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin waved off the numerous misstatements made by President Donald Trump in his much-criticized Oval Office address last week. Mnuchin insisted that the president didn’t get “things wrong at all” despite the Trump administration having to clarify and correct multiple inaccuracies.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Mnuchin boasted that the stock market reacted positively to the announcement of a bipartisan bill to address the coronavirus crisis and Trump’s Rose Garden speech in which private sector companies committed resources to the government.
But host Jonathan Karl retorted that the market had acted “severely negative” to Trump’s address.
“The president said several things. He said that cargo would be banned coming in from Europe,” Karl continued. “He failed to mention that the American citizens would not be subjected to the ban. These were all false statements. How, in an Oval Office address, do statements about the president’s own proposals end up being wrong?”
Mnuchin, meanwhile, said that Trump wanted to be “very clear” that he was making a “move to shut down travel so that we shut down more cases coming” into the country.
“He wanted to reassure the American public,” Mnuchin added. “I don’t think in an Oval Office address you can address every single issue as you’re discussing it.”
Shortly after Trump’s Wednesday night address, however, the Department of Homeland Security had to scramble and clarify that the proclamation would not impact Americans and legal permanent residents abroad. Despite the clarification, the 30-day European travel ban has resulted in massive overcrowding at airports due to Americans rushing home, causing lengthy customs waits and heightening the risk of infection through community spreading.
“How does he get things wrong about his own proposal?” Karl shot back, prompting Mnuchin to answer: “I don’t think he got things wrong at all.”
The ABC host would go on to note that Trump also incorrectly said that cargo would be banned, causing Mnuchin to place the blame on the public.
“We were very clear that people misinterpreted the comment on cargo and we immediately put out a statement to clarify that,” Mnuchin insisted. “So the president said this is similar to China and China cargo is not banned.”
Later in the interview, Karl would also press the Treasury secretary on another botched announcement by the president: his claim Google was working on a coronavirus testing website that would be “very quickly done.”
Karl pointed out that Google has since contradicted the president, noting that they are only in the early stages of development of a pilot program in the Bay Area that they had the “hope of expanding more broadly over time.”
When asked when he thought the website would be up and running, Mnuchin admitted that he really doesn't know. But then he optimistically added that he believes it would be made "as quickly as possible."