Donald Trump‘s announcement of his aspiration to reopen the American economy by Easter was a surprise to many in the American public. According to a report from Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, the announcement also came as a shock to the White House and many of the president’s Republican allies, who allegedly scrambled to deal with the aftermath as the coronavirus pandemic continued to rip through the country.
Although one Republican working with the coronavirus task force said the Easter deadline had been discussed internally, they said Trump’s public announcement came as a surprise.
“They discussed it internally, but they never intended Trump to announce it,” they said.
A former West Wing official told Sherman that the president’s decision was fueled by a desire to provide hope to the American people.
“His view was: I need to show people that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” they said.
Sherman discussed the “messy aftermath” of Trump’s “impulsive decision,” one that came as governors were asking him for medical supplies amid the pandemic, which has put a great deal of strain on state hospital systems.
“It was totally crazy,” the GOP task force member reportedly said.
According to Vanity Fair, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged Trump to reconsider the decision, which public health experts believed would undoubtedly cost lives.
“This is a very, very stressful situation for everybody, including me,” Fauci was quoted as saying.
Eventually, Trump agreed to continue social distancing measures until April 30. This came shortly before the White House revealed projections for coronavirus-related deaths in the United States — between 100,000 to 240,000.
#NEW: President Trump is extending social distancing guidelines to April 30 and says the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will likely to peak in two weeks.
He also says the country will be on its “way to recovery” by June 1. pic.twitter.com/OXwneHzOp8
— Jennifer Franco (@jennfranconews) March 29, 2020
According to another former West Wing official who spoke to Sherman, Trump’s campaign has been concerned about the effects of the pandemic on his campaign.
“From the beginning of the crisis, Trump had struggled to see it as anything other than a political problem, subject to his usual arsenal of tweets and attacks and bombast,” the Vanity Fair writer explained.
Sherman noted the president’s recent change in tone, which allegedly came after realizing that an inadequate response to COVID-19 would end his presidency.
“The campaign doesn’t matter anymore, what I do now will determine if I get reelected,” Trump reportedly said to a friend.
Sherman’s story echoes a piece from The Washington Post, which said Monday that Trump’s pivot on the pandemic was sparked by warnings from advisers who believe that prematurely ending social distancing could increase coronavirus deaths and harm his chances of re-election. Another report from The New York Times claimed that polls showing American opposition to the Easter reopening also played a role in swaying Trump’s stance on the issue.