In an interview with Scripps' Joe St. George on Monday, President Trump declined to confirm that he was joking when he said at a campaign rally Saturday that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing because a higher case total makes the U.S. look bad.

Why it matters: Joe Biden pounced on the line, calling it"an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle." White House officials told reporters after the rally that Trump was joking, and economic adviser Peter Navarro insisted on Sunday that the president's comments were "tongue-in-cheek."

  • But the comments were similar to what Trump has said in the past. Last week, he told the Wall Street Journal that testing is "overrated."
  • And on Monday, the president continued to blame high testing numbers for the amount of positive cases.

The exchange:

TRUMP: "If we did slow it down, we wouldn't show nearly as many cases. You're showing people that are asymptomatic, you're showing people that have very little problem, you're showing young people that don't have a problem. But we're doing so much testing, 25 million tests."
ST. GEORGE: "But did you ask to slow it down?"
TRUMP: "Uhh, if it did slow down, frankly, I think we're way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We've done too good a job, because every time we go up — with 25 million tests, you're going to find more people. So then they say, 'oh we have more cases in the United States.' The reason we have more cases is because we do more testing than any other country by far."

Worth noting: Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, told the Wall Street Journal last week that increased testing does lead to more cases reported, but he said higher percentages of positive tests results in many states "cannot be explained by increased testing."

The big picture: The U.S. has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with 2,281,903 from 27,084,900 tests as of Monday morning. 119,977 people have died.

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Jul 3, 2020 - Health

Fauci: Coronavirus surges mark a "very disturbing week" in the U.S.

Fauci testifies to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 30. Photo: Al Drago/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told medical journal JAMA on Thursday that it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.

What's happening: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 11,143,945 — Total deaths: 527,681 — Total recoveries — 6,004,593Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 2,818,588 — Total deaths: 129,584 — Total recoveries: 883,561 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.
42 mins ago - Health

In photos: America celebrates July 4 during global pandemic

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The U.S. has already celebrated Easter, graduations and so much more during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it can add July 4 to the list.

The state of play: Axios' Stef Kight writes public parades and fireworks displays around much of the country are being canceled to prevent mass gatherings where the virus could spread. Hot-dog contests and concerts will play to empty stands and virtual audiences — all while American pride treads an all-time low.