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'We're not going to control the pandemic,' Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows says in heated interview

"It is a contagious virus, just like the flu," White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said. Experts have rejected the comparison.
Image: Mark Meadows
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House on Wednesday.Alex Brandon / AP

As coronavirus case numbers spike across the country, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in a heated interview Sunday that the Trump administration won't be able to "control the pandemic."

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Meadows was pressed about the administration's attitude toward Covid-19 as case numbers reached a record high this weekend, hospitalizations climb and more than 225,000 people have died in the United States. He was also pushed about Vice President Mike Pence's decision to continue campaigning after four of his aides tested positive for the virus.

"We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations," Meadows said, adding: "It is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

President Donald Trump has long compared Covid-19 to the flu, which experts have resoundingly rejected as inaccurate and "morally reprehensible."

Meadows later said on CNN that the administration is "making efforts to contain" the coronavirus but that what is important is "to make sure people don't die from this."

"When we look at the number of cases increasing, what we have to do is make sure we fight it with therapeutics and vaccines, take proper mitigation factors in terms of social distancing and masks when we can," Meadows said. "And when we look at this, we're going to defeat it, because we're Americans."

He defended Pence's decision to stay on the trail, saying the vice president is "essential personnel," so he doesn't need to quarantine.

Trump, who also contracted the virus this month along with first lady Melania Trump and more than 20 other people close to him, has continued to say the U.S. is "rounding the corner" on the pandemic, even though key statistics are on the rise.

"It's ending anyways," Trump said Sunday in New Hampshire. "We're rounding the turn."

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded to Meadows in a statement released later Sunday, saying the administration "has given up on even trying to control this pandemic, that they've given up on their basic duty to protect the American people."

"This wasn't a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away," Biden added. "It hasn't, and it won't."

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Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., also criticized Meadows on Sunday.

"They are admitting defeat," she told reporters in Detroit. "This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of America."

Meadows was also pressed about the lack of mask-wearing at Trump's rallies, where attendees are frequently seen tightly packed without face coverings.

"We don't mandate masks because we offer them out," Meadows said. "We live in a free society."

After host Jake Tapper pushed back, Meadows responded, "You're not wearing one right now, Jake."

"There's literally nobody in this room," Tapper responded. "There is literally not one person in this studio."

The exchange was emblematic of the contentious nature of the interview, during which the men shouted over each other at different points.