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Trump says he "up-played" the coronavirus

President Trump responded to a question from an ABC town hall attendee Tuesday evening that he did not downplay the coronavirus, instead saying "in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action."

Reality check: The president told journalist Bob Woodward during an on-the-record interview that he intentionally understated the severity of COVID-19 in public statements to avoid inciting panic.


What they're saying: An audience member at the ABC event asked the president: "If you believe it's the president's responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that's known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?"

"So that was called action," Trump said in response. "Not with the mouth, but an actual fact ... Because what I did, with China, I put a ban on, with Europe, I put a ban on. We would have lost thousands more people had I not put a ban on. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important. So, we saved a lot of lives when we did that. 

  • Asked by host and ABC News Chief George Stephanopoulos if the number of Americans who have died from the virus causes him pause and whether his administration could have done something differently, Trump replied, "I think we could have had 2 million deaths if we didn’t close out the country."
  • The president repeated his claim that the virus will disappear. "It's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines," he said. "It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it."

The big picture: Trump added that he restricted travel from China to slow the spread of the virus and claimed the policy was singularly his idea.

  • Woodward recently told NBC News that limiting travel from China was not Trump's idea, but was recommended at a January meeting by leading health experts in the administration, including Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

"Crimea is Ukraine": Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of annexation

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Thursday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

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What's really going on with the labor market

Source: YCharts

The labor market is showing some signs of improvement: Jobless claims fell to 730,000 — a dramatic drop from 841,000 the previous week. And the latest jobs report showed a pandemic-era low unemployment rate of 6.3%

But, but, but: That's not the full story, experts say.

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Breaking down the rare convergence of the 10-year Treasury yield and S&P 500 dividend

Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals

A milestone was reached in the markets Thursday: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to match the dividend yield on the S&P 500

Why it matters: The two yields have been inverted since the beginning of last year, which is historically unusual.

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Top coalition of CEOs puts new muscle behind Biden with "Move the Needle" campaign

Business Roundtable, the voice ofAmerica's top CEOs, today launched "Move the Needle," a campaign to support President Biden in rolling out COVID vaccine, increasing vaccine uptake and encouraging masks.

What they're saying: "Masks and vaccines are working. Now is the time to keep at it, overcome pandemic fatigue, and double down on the measures that will end this public health and economic crisis, said Business Roundtable president and CEO Josh Bolten.

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U.S. notified Israel in advance about strike on Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

The Biden administration notified Israel in advance about the airstrike against an Iranian-backed Shiite militia base on the Syrian-Iraqi border Thursday evening, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The airstrike was the first overt military action by the U.S. in the Middle East since Biden assumed office, and one that Israeli officials see as a positive signal about the new administration's posture toward Iran.

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The sovereign state of Facebook vs. the world

Facebook's 3 billion monthly active users, its mountain of money and its control over the flow of information all put the company on an equal footing with governments around the world — and, increasingly, it's getting into fights with them.

Why it matters: Facebook's power alarms governments fearful that the tech giant could tilt the political scales inside their borders, and regulators around the world are seeking ways to rein the company in.

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Democrats drubbing Trumpless GOP on social media

Data: Twitter/CrowdTangle (Feb 24, 2021); Chart: Will Chase/Axios

In a swift reversal from 90 days ago, Democrats are now the ones with overpowering social media muscle and the ability to drive news.

The big picture: Former President Donald Trump’s digital exile and the reversal of national power has turned the tables on which party can keep a stranglehold on online conversation.

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