Trump Called Out Over U.S. Virus Death Toll in Tense Exchange

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President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in WashingtonCredit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

U.S. President Donald Trump and Axios reporter Jonathan Swan sparred over the U.S. coronavirus death toll compared to other countries around the globe in a heated interview that aired Monday night. 

“They are dying, that's true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can,” Trump argued. “It's under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague.”

Trump went on to claim that the U.S. death toll is "lower than the world" as a percentage of cases. 

Swan hit back saying that the death toll as a percentage of the population was very high and “that’s where the U.S. is really bad.”

“Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.,” Swan added.  

Trump shot back, “You can’t do that...You have to go by where – look, here is the United States," Trump continued pointing to one of his charts. “You have to go by the cases.”  

“Why not as a proportion of the population?” Swan responded, explaing that in South Korea, which has a population of 51 million, the country only 301 coronavirus deaths, “that must be relevant.”

Trump interjected, “You don’t know that.” To which Swan asked, “You think they’re faking their statistics? South Korea, an advanced country?”

Political battle

Congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials faced increasing pressure to come up an agreement on coronavirus aid legislation on Monday, after missing a vital deadline to extend relief benefits to tens of millions of jobless Americans.

Top Democrats in Congress and top representatives of Trump were due to meet in the U.S. Capitol to resume talks aimed at breaking the deadlock, after reporting progress over the weekend. But the two sides remained far apart, with top Republican lawmakers on the sidelines of the negotiations.

The extension of enhanced $600 per week federal unemployment benefits has proved to be a major stumbling block in the talks, and a top Federal Reserve official warned that failure to secure some form of extension would result in a weaker economy.

Democrats are holding fast to their demand that Congress renew those benefits that expired on Friday - a lifeline for the millions of Americans who have lost work during the pandemic - and are continuing to press for about $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments.

The White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill want to trim the weekly jobless aid, and have rejected as too costly the state and local assistance package that was included in legislation passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in May.

Republicans favoring a reduction in the unemployment aid have said it is a disincentive for people to work.

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