All across America this past year-and-a-half 700,000 people have died an agonizing, terrifying, drowning-in-their-own-fluids death, their relatives helpless, saying goodbye using Zoom or FaceTime. Families broken and shattered; husbands, wives, children and grandchildren left bereft; doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants dying along with them or holding their hands as they draw their final, tortured breath. Many of those deaths were absolutely unnecessary.
They happened because of decisions made by a small group of people led by Donald Trump.
If you or I made any decision, grounded in the desire to gain a political or other type of benefit, that caused even one single person to die we'd be on our way to prison. Look at people who simply decide to text while driving…and then kill a pedestrian. Prison.
Trump not only caused over 130,000 Americans to die unnecessarily (according to Dr. Deborah Birx's sworn testimony before Congress last week), but there's a pile of evidence — which I'll lay out below — that he did it because he believed the virus was hitting Blue states and Black people the hardest.
If this is true (and I'm building a case here that it is), it's called second-degree murder, which, to use the definitions of the State of Florida where Trump lives (there is no federal homicide law) constitutes:
"The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life…"
From the first case in the US on January 20, 2020 until the week of April 7th of last year, for four months Trump and his team were actually trying to do something about the Covid pandemic.
Trump put medical doctors on TV daily, the media was freaking out about refrigerated trucks carrying bodies away from New York hospitals, and doctors and nurses were our new national heroes.
By March 7th, US deaths had risen from 4 to only 22, but that was enough to spur federal action. Trump's official emergency declaration came on March 11th, and most of the country shut down or at least went partway toward that outcome that week.
The Dow collapsed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration. Jared Kushner put together an all-volunteer taskforce of mostly preppie 30-something white men to coordinate getting PPE to hospitals.
They even had a plan for the Post Office to distribute 650 million masks — 5 to every American household — to stop the pandemic.
But then came April 7th, when the New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline: Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States.
Other media ran similar headlines across the American media landscape that day, and it was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night. Most of the non-elderly people dying from Covid, the report found, were Black or Hispanic, not white people.
White conservatives responded with a collective, "What the hell?!?"
Limbaugh declared that afternoon that "with the coronavirus, I have been waiting for the racial component." And here it was. "The coronavirus now hits African Americans harder — harder than illegal aliens, harder than women. It hits African Americans harder than anybody, disproportionate representation."
It didn't take a medical savant, of course, to figure out why, and it had nothing to do with the biology of race: it was purely systemic racism. African Americans die disproportionately from everything, from heart disease to strokes to cancer to childbirth.
It's a symptom of a racially rigged economy and a healthcare system that only responds to money, which America has conspired to keep from African Americans for over 400 years. Of course they're going to die more frequently from coronavirus.
But the New York Times and the Washington Post simultaneously publishing front-page articles about that disparity with regard to COVID19, all on April 7th, echoed across the rightwing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.
Tucker Carlson, the only prime-time Fox "News" host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the dangers of the virus, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.
Now, Tucker said, "we can begin to consider how to improve the lives of the rest, the countless Americans who have been grievously hurt by this, by our response to this. How do we get 17 million of our most vulnerable citizens back to work? That's our task."
White people were out of work, and Black people were most of the casualties, outside of the extremely elderly. And those white people need their jobs back if we're going to get Trump's economy back on track in time for the upcoming election!
Brit Hume joined Tucker's show and, using his gravitas as a "real news guy," intoned, "The disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought."
Left unsaid was the issue of for whom it was "not quite as dangerous," but Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers are anything but unsophisticated when it comes to hearing dog-whistles on behalf of white supremacy.
Only 12,677 Americans were dead by that day, but now that Trump and his rightwing media knew most of the non-elderly were Black, things were suddenly very, very different. Now it was time to quit talking about people dying and start talking about getting people back to work!
It took less than a week for Trump to get the memo, presumably through Fox and Stephen Miller.
On April 12th, he retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and declared, in another tweet, that he had the sole authority to open the US back up, and that he'd be announcing a specific plan to do just that "shortly."
The next day, Freedomworks, the billionaire-founded and -funded group that animated the Tea Party against Obamacare a decade earlier, published an op-ed on their website calling for an "economic recovery" program including an end to the capital gains tax and a new law to "shield" businesses from lawsuits.
Three days after that, Freedomworks and the House Freedom Caucus issued a joint statement declaring that "[I]t's time to re-open the economy."
Freedomworks published their "#ReopenAmerica Rally Planning Guide" encouraging conservatives to show up "in person" at their state capitols and governor's mansions, and, for signage, to "Keep it short: 'I'm essential,' 'Let me work,' 'Let Me Feed My Family'" and to "Keep [the signs looking] homemade."
One of the first #OpenTheCountry rallies to get widespread national attention was April 19th in New Hampshire. Over the next several weeks, rallies filled with white people had metastasized across the nation, from Oregon to Arizona, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and elsewhere.
One that drew particularly high levels of media attention, complete with swastikas, confederate flags and assault rifles, was directed against the governor of Michigan, rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer.
NBC News, when they'd gotten hold of April emails from within the White House, ran the headline: "Trump Administration Scrapped Plan to Send Every American a Mask in April, Email Shows."
When Rachel Maddow reported on meat packing plants that were epicenters of mass infection, the conservative Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out that the virus flare wasn't coming from the "regular folks" of the surrounding white community; they were mostly Hispanic and Black.
The conservative meme was now well established.
Then came news that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons along with the meat packing plants, places with few white people (and the few whites in them were largely poor and thus disposable).
Trump's response to this was to issue an executive order using the Defense Production Act (which he had refused to use to order production of testing or PPE equipment) to order the largely Hispanic and Black workforce back into the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.
African Americans were dying in our cities, Hispanics were dying in meat packing plants, the elderly were dying in nursing homes.
But the death toll among working age white people, particularly affluent white people (who were less likely to be obese, have hypertension or struggle with diabetes), was relatively low.
And those who came through the infection were presumed to be immune to subsequent bouts, so we could issue them "COVID Passports" and give them hiring priority.
As an "expert" member of Jared Kushner's team of young, unqualified volunteers supervising the administration's PPE response to the virus noted to Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban, "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."
It was, after all, it was exclusively Blue States that were then hit hard by the virus: Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's grandson Max Kennedy Jr, 26, was one of the volunteers, and blew the whistle to Congress on Kushner and Trump. As Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker, "Kennedy was disgusted to see that the political appointees who supervised him were hailing Trump as 'a marketing genius,' because, Kennedy said they'd told him, 'he personally came up with the strategy of blaming the states.'"
At year's end, the United States was ranked 5th worst in the world in our response (behind Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Iran); we have about 20% of the world's Covid deaths, but only 4.5% of the world's population.
Why? Apparently because Trump and his Republican enablers and co-conspirators were just fine with Black people dying, particularly when they could blame it on Democratic Blue-state governors.
And once they put that strategy into place in April, it became politically impossible to back away from it, even as more and more Red State white people became infected.
Everything since then, right down to Trump's December 26th tweet ("The lockdowns in Democrat run states are absolutely ruining the lives of so many people — Far more than the damage that would be caused by the China Virus."), has been a double-down on death and destruction.
How could anybody think this was anything other than negligent homicide at best and intentional murder at worst?
Even Sweden has put together a commission to look into their government's response to the pandemic, and it's already reporting its result.
In Brazil, their Senate has compiled a 1000+ page report, detailing the mistakes and malicious actions President Bolsinaro took — very much like Trump did — that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, and they're recommending he be prosecuted under Brazilian and international law.
It's astonishing that there's no major, national commission or special prosecutor looking into what happened here in the US, particularly when so much of the evidence of the Trump administration committing murder is publicly available.
If a half-million people had died — unnecessarily — under Obama as president, you know how the GOP would react.
After all, they spent millions to hold 4+ years of multiple hearings across several congressional committees over 4 American deaths in Bengazi, taking thousands of hours of testimony, including an 11-hour day from Hillary Clinton.
During the Clinton presidency Republicans gave Ken Starr and his assistant Brett Kavanaugh four years and $70 million to uncover the democracy-ending crime of Bill Clinton getting a BJ from a consenting adult. (Seriously: Newt said it endangered "the survival of the American system of justice.")
In this case, there are actual dead bodies, and a hell of a lot more than four of them.
Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer must appoint select committees in the House and Senate to investigate this crime, and Attorney General Merrick Garland must appoint a special prosecutor with a grand jury.
Americans deserve to know why their friends and relatives died such a terrible death when every other country in the world (except Brazil) took strong and effective action to limit infections and fatalities.
And if it can be proven that Trump and his buddies like Scott Atlas let all these Americans die because they thought it would help them politically, people need to go to prison.
Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.