President Donald Trump and his allies continue to insist that he has handled the coronavirus pandemic remarkably well, claiming that the death count from COVID-19 would be much higher in the United States if he hadn’t been so proactive and quick to respond to the crisis. But such claims are ludicrous, as Trump seriously downplayed the threat back in January and February and even described it as a Democratic “hoax.” And journalist William Saletan, in an in-depth "blow-by-blow account" for Slate, argues that “tens of thousands” of American lives could have been saved if Trump had done a better job handling the crisis.
“The story the president now tells — that he ‘built the greatest economy in history,’ that China blindsided him by unleashing the virus, and that Trump saved millions of lives by mobilizing America to defeat it — is a lie,” Saletan emphasizes. “Trump collaborated with [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping], concealed the threat, impeded the U.S. government’s response, silenced those who sought to warn the public, and pushed states to take risks that escalated the tragedy. He’s personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.”
Saletan goes on to offer a detailed timeline of Trump’s response to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Saletan explains, Trump “had multiple warnings — briefings, reports, simulations, intelligence assessments — that a crisis such as this one was likely.” But he ignored those warnings, according to Saletan — and when COVID-19 arrived, he continue to ignore warnings.
“In early January, Trump was warned about a deadly new virus in China,” Saletan notes. “He was also told that the Chinese government was understating the outbreak…. This was inconvenient, because Trump was about to sign a lucrative trade deal with Beijing. ‘We have a great relationship with China right now, so I don’t want to speak badly of anyone,’ Trump told Laura Ingraham in a Fox News interview on January 10.”
Trump has claimed that he was quick to order a ban on travel from Mainland China, but in January, Saletan writes, Trump initially “resisted” such a ban because he was “worried that a travel ban would scare the stock market. But by the end of the month, airlines were halting flights to China anyway. On January 31, Trump gave in.”
The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries.… https://t.co/OwF1dR3caM— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1582580522.0
Saletan offers elaborate details of all the times Trump downplayed COVID 19’s severity in February and ignored warnings from economic adviser Peter Navarro and Health Secretary Alex Azar.
“Trump didn’t just ignore warnings — he suppressed them,” Saletan recalls. “When Azar briefed him about the virus in January, Trump called him an ‘alarmist’ and told him to stop panicking. When Navarro submitted a memo about the oncoming pandemic, Trump said he shouldn’t have put his words in writing. As the stock market rose in February, Trump discouraged aides from saying anything about the virus that might scare investors.”
The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (… https://t.co/EC0GCb77i1— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1583752843.0
Trump to Hannity on WHO saying coronavirus death rate is 3.4%: "I think the 3.4% number is really a false number. N… https://t.co/gBQ6MtuL7K— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1583379590.0
In the spring, Saletan notes, Trump’s “most decisive contribution to the death toll was his resistance to public health measures known as ‘mitigation’: social distancing, school and workplace closures, and cancellations of large gatherings.” And in June and July, Saletan adds, “Trump pushed states to reopen businesses even where, under criteria laid out by his health officials, it wasn’t safe to do so.” It was also during the summer that Trump insisted on “holding political rallies,” according to Saletan.
Saletan wraps up his lengthy piece by stressing that throughout the coronavirus crisis, Trump has let the U.S. down repeatedly — although he will never admit it.
“In Trump’s story, the virus is a foreign intrusion, an unpleasant interlude, a stroke of bad luck,” Saletan writes. “But when you stand back and look at the full extent of his role in the catastrophe, it’s amazing how lucky we were. For three years, we survived the most ruthless, reckless, dishonest president in American history. Then our luck ran out.”
Read the full account.