Trump talks down virus as his properties face possible hit

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President Donald Trump listens in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March, 9, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – One of President Donald Trump's first impulses in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in China was to suggest it was a buying opportunity in the U.S. stock market.

Even as the global peril of the virus has escalated, Trump has leaned hard on his decades of experience as a businessman, keeping his focus on the economy and financial markets and urging people to continue traveling and patronizing U.S. businesses.

“You know, a lot of people are staying here and they're going to be doing their business here,” he said Friday, as stocks fell again and the tally of infected in the U.S. climbed. “They're going to be traveling here. And they'll be going to resorts here.”

And possibly to the president's own resorts. The virus provides the latest example of how the president's public and personal interests are interwoven, but this time driven by a crisis with major global health implications in addition to financial ones.

“If there is any public health shutdown of restaurants, conventions and meetings, that will impact his property and his finances," said Kathleen Clark, an ethics lawyer at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and frequent critic of the president. “I think a reasonable person can conclude that he is motivated by personal interests.”

All of Trump’s properties, at home and abroad, would stand to suffer if travel and tourism business continues to evaporate. A business travel group is estimating revenue losses globally of nearly $50 billion per month.

Trump's comments Friday are the latest rosy depiction of the crisis as he has tried to brush past the economic impact. No president has more closely tied his political fortunes to the stock market, and a slowdown in the nation’s economy could imperil his reelection hopes.

Trump has peppered his economic advisers with questions about the virus’ impact and has boasted about the strength of the economy. "We have a great economy. We have a very strong economy," Trump insisting during an appearance Monday in the White House briefing room.