Mar 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Mnuchin denies Trump has been "wrong" about his own coronavirus policies

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that President Trump has gotten things "wrong" about his own coronavirus proposals, despite the administration having to walk back several of the policies Trump outlined in his Oval Office address on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The president's credibility is being called into question during a global health crisis that is likely to worsen.

The big picture: Trump made three false claims during his speech on Wednesday. First, he said that Americans returning from Europe will be exempt from the travel ban if they "have undergone appropriate screenings."

  • The Department of Homeland Security later clarified that the ban only applies to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen region of Europe within 14 days of arrival in the U.S. Permanent U.S. residents, citizens or immediate family of citizens are not subject to the policy.

Trump also stated that health insurers had agreed to "waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments."

  • In fact, insurers had only agreed to waive copayments for testing.

Finally, Trump claimed that the travel restrictions would apply to a "tremendous amount of trade and cargo."

  • Trump clarified in a tweet that the ban "stops people not goods." Pressed on this by ABC's Jon Karl, Mnuchin said: “We were very clear that people misinterpreted the comment on cargo.”
  • "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."

Driving the news: On Friday, Trump said in a press conference that Google is "very quickly" building a website to help people determine whether they need a test for coronavirus and that "Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now."

  • But Google said Verily, the life sciences unit of its parent company Alphabet, is "in the early stages of development" on such a tool that would only apply to the Bay Area with the hope of expanding over time.
  • Mnuchin would not explain the inconsistencies in Trump's remarks. Asked when the website would be available, Mnuchin told ABC: "I really don't know. I'm sure it's as quickly as possible."
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