The stock market closed sharply higher in the middle of President Donald Trump’s Friday Rose Garden news conference in which he announced a national emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the timing of the market close might have been fortuitous for the president, as the long-lasting moment from this appearance before the cameras likely came minutes later, after the markets closed for the week.
“No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said in responding to a question about whether he would take responsibility for the slow pace of getting tests for the coronavirus made available to Americans.
“We were given a, a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time,” Trump said. “We’re now in very, very strong shape.”
Trump said there would be millions of tests coming. If government and private labs are able to get testing up to speed, Friday’s line might be an afterthought. If not, it could be a line that resonates in Democratic campaign advertising for much of 2020.
The president didn’t start taking questions until the markets were closing, and it was in responding to the first question that he first mentioned the ongoing disagreement between House Democrats and his administration about the contours of an emergency aid package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to have on the House floor before leaving Friday.
The president also said there was still no agreement with the House.
“We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough. We’re negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to,” Trump said without offering specifics. “We could have something, but we don’t think they’re giving enough. They’re not doing what’s right for the country.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 4 percent from 3:25 to the 4 p.m. close, and the S&P 500 was up more than 6 percent during that same period.
That was during the part of the Rose Garden event that featured supportive comments from chief executives of numerous major retailers and businesses in the medical field.
“Normally you’d view us as competitors, but today we’re focused on a common competitor, and that’s defeating the spread of the coronavirus,” Target Board Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said as part of the show of unity from corporate America.
Trump said that under the national emergency, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will be authorized to waive a variety of federal laws.
This will be at least the 34th national emergency in effect, dating back to one implemented by President Jimmy Carter as part of the response to the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. Most relate to matters of foreign policy and national security. President Barack Obama declared a national emergency to assist the response to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.
The move allowed for waiving an assortment of federal requirements.
Much of the focus Friday remained on testing capacity, although the president didn’t want everyone running to the hospital or to a local pharmacy to seek screening.
“We don’t want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it,” Trump said, citing a new public-private partnership that will expand access to testing for qualified individuals. He said they were working with retail pharmacies on drive-thru testing and with Google on developing a website to help facilitate setting up tests.