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President Trump has treated the coronavirus outbreak as a media war that he could win with the right messaging, but Republicans close to him say that “he’s definitely melting down over this,” Vanity Fair reported. 

As the epidemic becomes worse, it becomes increasingly clear that Trump’s deeply held worldview -- that the media is always searching for a story to bring him down -- is influencing his policies toward the crisis. 

“He wants Justice to open investigations of the media for market manipulation,” a source close to the White House said. 

Trump’s frustration with his West Wing was exemplified with his removal of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday. “He’s very frustrated he doesn’t have a good team around him,” a former White House official said. 

Trump has also complained that his economic adviser Larry Kudlow is not doing enough to calm market jitters. Kudlow refused Trump’s request that Kudlow hold an on-camera press briefing last week. “Larry didn’t want to have to take questions about coronavirus,” a person close to Kudlow said. “Larry’s not a doctor. How can he answer questions about something he doesn’t know?”

Trump’s press conference on Friday at the CDC almost entirely lacked a sense of the seriousness of the outbreak. 

“I like this stuff. I really get it,” he told reporters with his face partly hidden under a red “Keep America Great” hat. “People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors say, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should’ve done that instead of running for president.”

Trump later compared the situation to his Ukraine scandal: “The [coronavirus] tests are all perfect. Like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect.”

The president frequently pushes a nothing-to-see-here message in public, but sources close to him say he’s privately terrified of the virus. “Donald is a famous germaphobe. He hates it if someone is eating nachos and dips a chip back in after taking a bite. He calls them ‘double dippers,’” a prominent Republican said. 

Trump has asked the Secret Service to set up a screening program and bar anyone who has a cough from the White House grounds amid fears that journalists will try to purposefully contract coronavirus and give it to him.

“He’s definitely melting down over this,” a person close to the administration said. 

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