Desperate Don

When Covid-19 hit, Trump had no plan to save American lives. His only plan was to save himself.

Desperate Don

Four years ago today, on Super Bowl Sunday, Trump told his Big Covid Lie to Sean Hannity's biggest audience ever. Trump claimed he had "shut it down coming in from China." It was a dangerous, deadly, easily disproved lie. But Trump and others repeated it in various forms for many more months, downplaying the risks and overhyping the Trump Administration's response, even as the US death toll mounted.

Four years ago, Donald Trump was a desperate man.

A Presidential election year had just begun. Manufacturing was in a recession. America was in the midst of the worst farm crisis since the 1980s. And the steel and coal industries—industries he had repeatedly promised to revive—were being by devastated by bankruptcies and job losses.

The Trump tax cuts had failed. Trump had failed in his promise to eliminate the debt. Making matters worse, trillion-dollar-plus deficits were already being projected through 2030.

Consumer debt had surged to record levels. And now consumer spending growth was in a tailspin. It plunged from 3.2% in Q3 2019 to 1.8% in Q4 2019. In January 2020 it hit 0%.

The December 2019 jobs report, released on 10 January, had only reinforced the idea of an economy slamming on the brakes:

  • Only 145,000 jobs created — below estimates of 160,000.
  • Wage growth was lowest since mid-2018.
  • Hourly earnings disappointed, pushing down the annual gain to 2.9% from 3.1%.
  • Hiring in full-year 2019 was the slowest since 2011.

Meanwhile, Trump's snake-oil claims about the economy were ringing increasingly hollow.

On 21 January 2020 he told the World Economic Forum at Davos that "the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before."

It was a ridiculous claim, but instead of laughing at him as they had in 2018, the Davos crowd listened to Trump's nonsense "in virtual silence."

Three years into Trump's Presidency, the only thing keeping him out of prison was the fact that he himself was President. His own lawyer, Michael Cohen, had been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included illegal 2016 election interference committed at Trump's direction. Other members of Trump's 2016 campaign team/criminal gang who had already pleaded guilty or been convicted of Trump-related crimes included Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, and Roger Stone.

Against this backdrop of still-unprosecuted crimes, a cratering economy and a humiliating impeachment for caught-on-transcript "high crimes and misdemeanors," Trump began 2020 desperate to stay President—and to stay out prison.

He needed something, anything to keep at bay the increasingly inevitable election-year "Trump Recession."

Trump's desperation about the economy drove him to make a trade deal with China

Trump's Hail Mary plan to revive the economy in 2020 hinged on a trade deal with China.

Signed on 15 January 2020, it was a sad and pathetic deal (one that China pretty much backed out of just a few months later), that Trump nevertheless called "momentous."

One day later, Trump's first impeachment trial began in the Senate.

January 2020 was also when Trump first started to be briefed about the threat of a deadly new virus coming out of China.

On 29 January, Trump's trusted adviser Peter Navarro sounded the alarm as loudly as he could, warning Trump in a memo that "half a million American souls" could die of coronavirus if it wasn't contained.

On 31 January, Trump issued his so-called travel ban on people coming from China.

Trump's desperation to save himself drove him to tell his Big Lie about Covid

On 1 February 2020, Trump sat down with Sean Hannity for a televised interview that would be broadcast during the Super Bowl Sunday pregame show on 2 February.

For any normal President, this interview, reaching perhaps the largest TV audience of the year, would have been an ideal opportunity to offer a somber assessment of the potential threat that the country faced, and the need to pull together as a nation to protect our loved ones, friends and neighbors from this frightening new virus.

For a carnival-barking clown like Trump, it was just one more opportunity to sell some more snake-oil to his audience.

“We pretty much shut it down coming in from China," he told Hannity. "We can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. We’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes."

The travel ban was always porous. People from China just had to leave the country and switch planes to get to America.

Even worse, the ban came too late to be effective. As Fox News reported in April 2020, at least 430,000 people — equivalent to the population of Minneapolis — had traveled from China to the US between the first outbreak of Covid, and the start of Trump's travel ban.

By 8 March 2020, Trump had said so many dumb things about the coronavirus that I began compiling a list of them that ultimately became a widely circulated 2020 meme.

But, amid all the evidence to the contrary, The Big Lie that Trump had "shut it down coming in from China" was something that he and the GOP clung to for much of 2020.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

By April, just a couple of months after Trump told his Big Covid Lie, the US was the country with "the worst known coronavirus outbreak in the world."

Steve Scalise even had the nerve to repeated Trump's Big Covid Lie at the Republican National Convention in August 2020, claiming: "Trump saved lives by shutting down flights from China and Europe."

In February 2021, one month after Trump left office, the Covid-19 death toll surpassed Navarro's dire January 2020 prediction. More than 500,000 Americans were already dead.

Today, 1.2 million Americans have died—with hundreds of thousands of those deaths a direct result of Trump's inept, selfish and reckless pandemic response.

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