Donald Trump used time during his regular COVID-19 briefing on Monday to play a campaign ad for himself. Trump said that the video had been put together by White House staff — a possible violation of federal law regulating the election activities of federal employees.
Under fire for downplaying the coronavirus' risk and doing little to prepare for the pandemic, Trump made reporters watch what was effectively a campaign ad. "We have a few clips that we're just going to put up," he said, before playing a video containing clips organized and edited to blame the media for minimizing the threat of the pandemic and tout Trump's response.
After the video was over, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl asked about its origins.
"I've never seen a video like that played in this room. It looks a bit like a campaign ad. Who produced that video for you?" he asked.
"That was done by a group in the office. And it was done by — we just put some clips together," Trump replied. He claimed that it was done "over the last two hours" by White House social media director Dan Scavino "and a group of people" to correct "fake news." Trump bragged that he had "far better" clips that had not been included.
Trump WH staff ad 4-13-20 from Shareblue Media on Vimeo
Both CNN and MSNBC cut away from their coverage of the briefing during the campaign video.
Democrats accused Trump of using taxpayer money for partisan purposes. "Trump used your money to produce a campaign ad, then used time reserved to update you on COVID-19 to air that ad," the Democratic National Committee charged in a tweet on Monday night.
Some observers suggested after the briefing that the staff's work producing the spot could constitute a violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law that limits federal employees' work on political campaigns. The Trump administration has frequently violated that law.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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