An administration official, who discussed internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity, said the new guidance had been in development for weeks but had yet to be cleared by top C.D.C. or task force officials. The guidelines would address how schools could reopen and whether parents should send children, most likely including a checklist for making that decision. The official denied that Mr. Trump or other White House officials had pressured the agency to ease the existing guidelines for schools, which were updated in April.
Another official said that some in the White House had learned of the C.D.C.’s plans to distribute new guidance only on Tuesday, when Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the agency’s director, told governors about it in a call led by Mr. Pence. Dr. Redfield said on Wednesday that Americans should not interpret C.D.C. guidelines as requirements.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and one of the coronavirus task force’s most prominent members, did not attend the briefing on Wednesday, an absence that drew attention. Dr. Fauci later said in a brief telephone conversation that he was part of a small group of officials asked to call in from the White House Situation Room to a meeting the task force held before the briefing. Dr. Fauci said the officials who called in were less relevant to the topics discussed in the briefing.
In taking on defiant educators, Mr. Trump invoked the one lever he had — federal funding — to impose his will on schools, which are traditionally run by localities and states.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
In reality, it may be a hollow threat. The president has no control over about 90 percent of school district budgets, which are generally financed by local property and sales taxes. And he has little control over federal funding already appropriated by Congress.
“Trump has no legal authority to withhold funds,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education under President Barack Obama, said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “Threatening people, bullying them, lying doesn’t stop the virus from spreading.”