How the White House is trying to convince America that Trump’s illness isn’t a big deal

In case that point was somehow lost on observers, campaign aides like Jason Miller made it more explicitly.

The tacit message of the tweet: Even the virus can’t keep this guy down.

But Miller’s presentation of what’s shown is obviously questionable. For one thing, while he boasts that Trump didn’t need a teleprompter, the president can be seen looking down at the sheet of paper in front of him, almost certainly to consult notes about what he plans to say.

This is not a big deal, of course, and, technically, it doesn’t conflict with Miller’s representation that no teleprompter was used. But that Miller pointedly uses this as a point of contrast with former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in the upcoming election, is ironic. After all, Trump’s campaign has repeatedly criticized Biden’s use of written notes or alleged that he was referring to notes as he gave public comments. (Here’s an example from a Biden television appearance and one centered on his invitation to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to join his ticket.)

Then there is Miller’s claim that this was “one take” — meaning that it is presented as Trump offered it, without editing. Shortly after the video was published, a number of professional video editors noted that this probably wasn’t true; that, after Trump mentions the use of therapeutics, he appears to begin to cough — but not complete the cough.

You can see it in the animation here. About halfway through, his shoulders hunch. You’ll also notice that when the animation loops, the position of the cabinets behind him shifts, despite this apparently being shot from a mounted camera. In other words, the camera was probably moved.

Those shifts are evidence to experts of the use of Adobe Premiere’s “fluid morph” tool, a nifty bit of software that allows video producers to hide cuts. There are a number of examples on YouTube of the tool at work, such as this one. If you watch that video, you will notice that the effect is most noticeable in the background, where the position of elements (particularly at upper left) suddenly changes.

This video wasn’t released simply as a matter of course. It followed reports earlier in the day that Trump had been in more dire condition on Friday than the White House at first let on. The New York Times reports that the revelation that Trump had been more ill than was originally suggested “infuriated” the president, prompting him to first encourage his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani to pass a message about his vitality to the New York Post and, later, to make a similar point publicly himself.

In other words, Trump himself wanted to show the world how healthy he was, something that wouldn’t be aided by an on-camera cough. (His doctors have publicly acknowledged that Trump has been experiencing a cough, a common symptom of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.)

Trump’s team also released photos of him apparently working from the presidential facility at

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U.S. Adversaries Are Exploiting Trump’s Illness and the White House Isn’t Helping

As Washington followed the rapid-fire news Friday of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and his eventual hospitalization at Walter Reed Medical Center, national security and disinformation analysts watched as American adversaries sought to exploit the unfolding situation to their advantage.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.


© Drew Angerer—Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s diagnosis was announced around 1 a.m. Friday morning with a tweet from his personal account. Over the following hours, the White House put out piecemeal statements that gradually became more concerning. Prior Administrations facing uncertainty at the top of America’s government have favored full briefings for the media by subject matter experts and advisors. Trump’s White House opted instead for sporadic announcements through non-traditional media channels over the course of the day which only fueled speculation.

This approach created a significant opening for misinformation by foreign adversaries and bad actors at home, analysts say. “What the White House has been sharing with us has been lacking in detail and fragmented, and whenever there is a gap in the information that’s shared there are conspiracy theories and misinformation,” says Samuel Woolley, who leads propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “There’s a massive credibility gap.”

This distrust was exacerbated as details emerged that Trump had gone ahead with campaign events on Thursday despite knowing that his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus. Trump traveled to several events in New Jersey after her diagnosis, which he downplayed in a television interview. Adversaries were quick to seize on the series of conflicting messages. “The propaganda ecosystem is going into overdrive,” Woolley says. “We should expect it to cause a massive cascade of misinformation from all quarters.”

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Some arms of government attempted to deploy the traditional approach to information in times of uncertainty. The Pentagon moved to reassure the public that there has been no change to U.S. armed forces’ level of alert since the President received a positive test. “The U.S. military stands ready to defend our country and interests,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces. Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement.”

But foreign adversaries have already been at work on harder to patrol fronts, like propaganda outlets and cyberspace. Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray testified to Congress that Russia has been using “proxies, state media, online journals” and other mediums to influence U.S. elections and specifically damage the Democratic nominee,

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