Donald Trump flees reporters again
Donald Trump has once again cut a media conference short, turning and walking away from the lectern after being called out for a recurring fib.
It was a busy day for the US President, who also signed four executive orders on coronavirus relief measures, bypassing Congress. More on that shortly.
During the press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mr Trump repeated his frequent false claim that he was responsible for passing a policy called Veterans Choice.
"They've been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president's ever been able to do it. And we got it done," he said.
Veterans Choice is a healthcare program that allows American military veterans to see private sector doctors, outside the US Government's Veterans Affairs system, if they would otherwise have to wait too long for an appointment.
It was passed into law in 2014, when Mr Trump's predecessor Barack Obama was president. Mr Trump had nothing to do with it.
CBS reporter Paula Reid challenged the President on his discredited claim.
"Why do you keep saying that you passed Veterans Choice?" she asked, shouting over Mr Trump and the cheering members of his club - who, for some reason, had been invited to the media conference - to be heard.
Mr Trump tried to call on a different reporter.
"OK, go ahead," he said, pointing to someone else.
"It was passed in 2014. But it was a false statement, sir," Reid continued.
"OK, thank you very much everybody. Thank you very much," the President said, abruptly ending the event and walking away.
Trump abruptly ended his Q&A when @PaulaReidCBS asked him this: "Why do you keep saying that you passed Veterans Choice? It was passed in 2014. But it was a false statement, sir." pic.twitter.com/roJ3ngGUdI— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 8, 2020
Mr Trump has made an increasingly frequent habit of ending media briefings prematurely when reporters challenge him.
Late last month, he cut a White House coronavirus briefing short after being asked about his promotion of a doctor who claims masks are unnecessary, there is already a cure for the virus, doctors are using alien DNA to treat people, and common gynaecological problems are the result of "tormenting spirits" having sex with women in their dreams.
"I can tell you this. She was on air, along with many other doctors. They were big fans of hydroxychloroquine," Mr Trump said, justifying his retweet promoting Dr Stella Immanuel.
"And I thought she was very impressive in the sense that, from where she came - I don't know which country she comes from - but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice.
"But I know nothing about her," he added.
"But she said masks don't work, and last week you said, real quick, last week you said masks -" CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins said.
"OK, thank you very much everyone," said Mr Trump, turning and walking out of the room.
THE RECURRING VETERANS CHOICE FIB
Mr Trump has been repeating his claim about Veterans Choice for years - according to CNN fact checker Daniel Dale, who monitors such things, he's made it more than 150 times.
His most extensive version of the lie was in August of last year, when he said he'd come up with the idea for the program during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"I said, you know, 'I have a great idea. I've been thinking about it a lot'. This was during the campaign," Mr Trump said.
"And I came back to my people, I had experts, and I said, 'I have a great idea. These lines for the veterans are too long. It takes them three, four weeks sometimes to see a doctor. I have a great idea - let's let them go outside, go to a private doctor. We'll pay the bill, they'll be all fixed up all perfect, and they can do it immediately and we'll pay the bill'.
"And I thought, I said, 'Man am I smart. I am the smartest guy, to think of that'. So I went before this panel of experts that were with me working on things, and I said, 'How do you like that idea?' And they said, 'Sir, we've known about it for about 40 years, but we've never been able'.
"But here's the thing. We got it done. Nobody else could get it done. Nobody else."
As we mentioned, Veterans Choice was actually created in 2014. When Mr Trump supposedly came up with the idea of letting veterans see private doctors outside the VA system, and a panel of experts supposedly praised him … the program already existed.
Compounding the fib, Mr Trump used Veterans Choice to attack one of his political nemeses, the late Republican senator John McCain, who died in 2018 after battling a brain tumour.
"McCain didn't get the job done for our great vets and the VA, and they knew it. That's why when I had my dispute with him, I had such incredible support from the vets and from the military. The vets were on my side because I got the job done. I got Choice," the President said last March.
"Choice. For years and years, decades, they wanted to get Choice.
"For many decades, they couldn't get it done. It was never done. I got it, five months ago, I got it done. Choice."
In fact, Mr McCain co-sponsored the bill that created Veterans Choice, along with independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
TRUMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDERS
In another significant development today, Mr Trump bypassed Congress - which normally controls federal spending - by signing four executive orders to defer payroll taxes and extend an expired unemployment benefit.
Congress had allowed coronavirus unemployment payments to lapse on August 1, as Republicans and Democrats couldn't come to an agreement about the new payment scheme. So Trump took matters into his own hands and signed an order renewing the payment.
However, his order called for payments of up to $US400, one-third less than the $600 people had previously been receiving.
The executive orders could face legal challenges questioning the President's authority to spend taxpayer dollars without the express approval of Congress.
Originally published as Donald Trump flees reporters again