In late February, even as it became clear that the novel coronavirus was poised to rage like wildfire across the United States, President Donald Trump and his administration systematically tried to downplay the threat the disease posed to the American public.
In a devastating timeline compiled by New York University School of Law professor Ryan Goodman and NYU School of Law student Danielle Schulkin in the New York Times, it becomes clear that the president and his administration tried to cover up the threat of the virus, despite the fact that government agencies internally were sounding alarms about the dangers it posed to Americans' well being.
In their analysis, Goodman and Schulkin trace what was known about the disease's spread in late February and contrast it with statements and actions that were being taken by the administration.
"At the time, senior officials knew the coronavirus was an extreme threat to Americans," they write. "Thanks to information streaming in from U.S. intelligence agencies for months, officials reportedly believed that a “cataclysmic” disease could infect 100 million Americans and discussed lockdown plans. The warnings were given to Mr. Trump in his daily brief by the intelligence community; in calls from Alex Azar, the secretary of health; and in memos from his economic adviser Peter Navarro."
However, these dire warnings were not at all communicated to the public -- and the administration continued to falsely claim that the virus had been "contained."
"That Wednesday, the president used the day’s news conference by the coronavirus task force, with Dr. Fauci alongside him, to lie to the public," they write. "'You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done,' he told the American public. He and Mr. Azar would continue to make such assurances over the next two days -- Mr. Azar in remarks before lawmakers and the president in statements from the White House and bellowed at political rallies."
The analysis also doesn't spare Fauci for trying to adhere to the administration's preferred narrative in the face of the facts.
"Dr. Fauci might now regret how he tried to thread the needle, but he also knew to expect the question and he repeated the party line," they write. "In effect, for five days, the president along with some of his closest senior officials disseminated an egregiously false message to Americans. The messaging would continue well beyond those days until the stark images of refrigerated morgue trucks and spiked lines on colored graphs showed the escalating numbers of cases and dead."