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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Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 31,032,045 — Total deaths: 960,729— Total recoveries: 21,255,717Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,805,342 — Total deaths: 199,511 — Total recoveries: 2,590,671 — Total tests: 95,108,559Map.
  3. Politics: Testing czar on Trump's CDC contradictions: "Everybody is right" Ex-FDA chief: Career scientists won't be "easily cowed" by political vaccine pressure.
  4. Education: What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning.
  5. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — 7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week.
  6. World: England sets £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules — The countries painting their pandemic recoveries green.

Rep. Brooks: We need to better prepare for pandemics

Axios' Margaret Talev (L) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R). Photo: Axios

Insufficient stockpiles and a lack of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic should serve as a warning for America on future preparedness, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) said at an Axios virtual event on Friday.

What they're saying: "Congress had been beefing up for years — the appropriations for preparedness — it certainly was not enough, and we recognize that," Brooks said.

Sep 18, 2020 - Health

Rep. Khanna: COVID-19 could change the perception of public health care

Rep. Khanna and Axios' Margaret Talev

The universal experience of COVID-19 could change how opponents view Medicare for All, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said at an Axios virtual event on Friday.

What they're saying: "The pandemic has reminded us of our shared humanity with other American citizens. It's no longer possible to think, 'Oh, we're not part of those who get sick.' Now almost everyone knows, unfortunately, someone who has been hospitalized, someone who had a serious bout with COVID," Khanna said.