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Trump downplays virus, disputes bad polls in testy interview with Fox's Wallace

President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE in a testy interview with Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceChris Wallace: Democrats 'would need a blue wave' to take back Senate Biden, Trump pen dueling Fox News op-eds Trump calls Fox 'disappointing' for airing Obama speech MORE downplayed recent surges in coronavirus cases, defended his stance on Confederate-named bases and sought to attack his fall opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll Ivanka Trump raises million in a week for father's campaign On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election MORE

Trump disputed polls showing him trailing Biden, eviscerating his Democratic opponent as “not competent to be president” and controlled by the “radical” progressive wing of the party.

He also complained about his inability to hold rallies in some areas of the country due to the coronavirus, accusing “Democrat-run states” of not allowing him to do so.

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Trump’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday” — his first Sunday morning show interview in more than a year — comes less than four months out from the election, as polls show the president in an uphill race against his competitor. A recent poll found 6 in 10 voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.7 million in the United States and taken more than 140,000 American lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The president described recent spikes in coronavirus cases as “burning embers” or “flames” and insisted exploding cases in Florida would be “under control.” He also attributed the recent rise in cases — the U.S. surpassed a daily record of more than 77,000 new cases on Friday — to an increase in testing, a claim that health experts have widely disputed. 

Trump also described Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciRegeneron halts trial of COVID-19 antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pollsters stir debate over Trump numbers Donald Trump Jr. claims US coronavirus death rate at 'almost nothing' MORE, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, as “a little bit of an alarmist” while denying that the White House is involved in an effort to discredit him.

“We'll put out the flames. And we'll put out in some cases just burning embers. We also have burning embers. We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame like, but it's going to be under control,” Trump told Wallace.

When Wallace pressed Trump on criticism of the lack of a national plan to address the coronavirus, Trump said he takes responsibility for “everything” before criticizing the responses of some of the governors.

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“Look, I take responsibility always for everything because it's ultimately my job, too. I have to get everybody in line. Some governors have done well, some governors have done poorly. They're supposed to have supplies they didn't have. I supplied everybody,” Trump said.

When asked about increase in cases in the country, Trump said many of those who contract the virus are young and would heal quickly.

“They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. ... I guess it's like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they're going to get better very quickly,” Trump said.

“Cases are up — many of those cases shouldn't even be cases. Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most testing.”

The appearance on “Fox News Sunday” was the president’s first on a Sunday morning show since June 2019 and his first interview on Wallace’s program since November 2018.

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It was filled with contentious exchanges. At one point, Wallace challenged Trump when the president claimed that Biden had called for defunding the police, an exchange that led the president to demand his aides brandish a copy of the recommendations set forth by the “unity task force” established by Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTlaib, Ocasio-Cortez offer bill to create national public banking system Cutting defense spending by 10 percent would debilitate America's military The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy MORE (I-Vt.), a former Democratic presidential candidate.

“Let’s go. Get me the charter, please,” Trump said, gesturing to an aide off-screen. The president later thumbed through the document, taking issue with policy proposals on immigration, but did not land on a section calling for defunding the police, which Biden has explicitly said he opposes. Wallace said the White House never produced evidence of the president’s claim.

Trump also projected optimism about his reelection prospects despite recent national and battleground state polling showing him losing to Biden. Confronted with a new Fox News poll showing him trailing Biden nationally by 8 points, Trump rejected the poll as “fake.”

“I'm not losing, because those are fake polls. They were fake in 2016 and now they're even more fake,” the president insisted. “I have other polls that put me leading, and we have polls where I'm leading. I have a poll where we're leading in every swing state.”

Trump went on to lambaste Biden as “not competent” to serve as commander in chief and challenged him to take a cognitive test. He argued he has outperformed Biden on the economy.

“I built the greatest economy in history, I'm now doing it again,” Trump said, expressing confidence about the economic recovery amid the coronavirus, which resulted in millions of job losses due to lockdowns meant to curb its spread.

“I think the economy is expanding and growing beautifully,” Trump said later, doubting that the state of the economy would be a problem for him come Election Day. “Now, the Democrats want to keep it closed as long as possible because they think that's good for elections.”