Speaking to Ali Velshi on MSNBC Tuesday, reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig recalled some of the conversations they had with President Donald Trump in the final year of his presidency.
"You know, his alternate reality, the one he's living in, the one he talked about at length with Phil and me when we interviewed him at Mar-a-Lago, has only gotten more hardened over time," said Leonnig. "Anything that doesn't help him has to be false. It's interesting too because it's particularly perverse to have someone not taking credit for the vaccine they pressured everyone to deliver."
Trump has never bragged about his vaccine, and it's unclear if it's because he knows that his supporters don't believe in it or because he sees Fox News trashing it every night on television. On a few occasions, President Joe Biden has attempted to give Trump credit for "Operation Warp Speed," but the ex-president hasn't followed with his own brag.
"It's also perverse to link the distrust of the election among his supporters, which he sowed and stoked for months, to encouraging people to distrust a vaccine which could save their lives. What we found about our report about Donald Trump's final catastrophic final year in our new book is that many people giving him expert advice at the time, insiders in the medical community, were literally pulling their hair out in fear, in near-panic about him resisting their good guidance. And they were shocked at the degree to which he put American lives in peril for his own political benefit. It sounds a little bit like by linking election and vaccination distrust, he's linking these things for his political benefit, again."
Another point that the writers made was the mask debate that Trump kept having with experts. It didn't matter what they told him, he refused to wear it.
"Is it as simple as he thought it made him look weak?" asked Velshi.
"You know, what's interesting about that moment Ali is the president when he said at the time, 'people tell me,' what he really often was meaning was 'I feel that I look weak,'" said Leonnig. "I will tell you that we learned in our reporting that the chief of staff, Mark Meadows at the time counseled the medical and political advisors and political advisers, no way, he can't wear a mask, he's already dug in on this, he can't do it, because his base will basically rebel. But Donald Trump himself believed that he looked weak and he told Phil and me that about the importance in his mind of looking strong, looking healthy, looking impenetrable, that was important to him."
She went on to explain that many begged Trump to wear the mask, noting that it would inspire people and it could help save lives, but he still didn't care.
"The other sad thing about this moment is that Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, it's one of his greatest regrets," said Leonnig. "According to our reporting, he repeatedly tried to get the president, and ultimately, when failing to convince him, he tried to get the president's physician, Sean Conley, to convince the president for his own safety, just that alone, wear the mask. but Redfield knew and told Conley and told aides if the president will wear the mask, we will literally save hundreds of thousands of lives."
It's unknown just how many people died because they refused to wear a mask, but never in history have Americans died due to a president's own fears of weakness.
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