One of the most daunting things about living in the era of COVID-19 is that there is so much information flying back and forth from different sources that it can be hard to know whom to trust. That’s one reason why we at PFAW are providing weekly updates on what Donald Trump is saying and doing during the pandemic – because you probably shouldn’t believe or trust much of what he says.
This week has clearly demonstrated yet again that Trump’s priority during the novel coronavirus health crisis is not helping to save American lives or shoring up the struggling economy, but trying to position himself for reelection. For him, it will always be Trump first – and everyone else a distant second, if they even register at all.
Trump prioritized his own agenda again this week:
- Immediately after Tuesday’s disastrous and unsafe election in Wisconsin, Trump began touting a common canard that vote-by-mail ballots are disproportionately vulnerable to voter fraud, likely in an attempt to hinder a coming wave of vote-by-mail initiatives in the run-up to the presidential election. In fact, although vote-by-mail alone is not a solution for all in-person polling difficulties, it results in extremely few cases of fraud and is widely accepted as being one of the safest means of voting during the pandemic. Underscoring Trump’s hypocrisy, he and Melania had already signed up for absentee mail-in ballots in Florida’s upcoming Republican primary. Trump’s underlying message here is that vote-by-mail is acceptable only so long as it doesn’t allow more people opposed to Trump to vote safely in November.
- In a pair of removals seemingly designed to cement his influence over vitally important, nonpartisan government oversight, Trump ousted both the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, and the recently named Acting Inspector General of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, Glenn Fine. Atkinson was presumably removed because his management of the Ukraine whistleblower report led to Trump’s impeachment, and Fine was reportedly replaced in order to preemptively undermine independent oversight of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package’s disbursement. Especially given Trump’s corruption and his allegiance to corporate interests he sees as “friendly,” this crisis requires comprehensive independent oversight. Trump’s dangerous moves instead hinder our ability to ensure our tax dollars are being used appropriately – and make it harder for us to hold him accountable for wrongdoing.
- Despite experts’ repeated attempts to temper or correct Trump’s persistent praise of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for coronavirus, he continued to make inflated claims about its efficacy and asserted that it had been approved by the FDA as a treatment for COVID-19 (which the FDA has not done). Reports then revealed that Trump has holdings in Sanofi, the French drugmaker of the drug’s brand-name version.
- Trump refused to reopen the Healthcare.gov marketplace to new customers for a coronavirus special enrollment period. Had he done so, the 10 million Americans who lost their jobs in March due to the growing health crisis would have had an easier time obtaining health insurance – but instead, Trump ignored the urgent need for affordable care amid this crisis.
- Doubling down on his refusal to provide state leaders with medical supplies and emergency federal assistance, Trump alternately questioned whether or not the states actually need life-saving equipment such as ventilators, claimed that some states aren’t in jeopardy from COVID-19, and argued that it’s not the federal government’s job to provide such supplies. In fact, on Wednesday Trump arranged for Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO) to receive 100 ventilators for his state in an apparent political favor designed to help Gardner win reelection in the fall. In addition to contradicting himself and experts’ stockpile reports, Trump is hijacking Americans’ health and safety and using vital medical equipment as a partisan political tool.
- In order to distract from his own egregious failures of leadership and response to the pandemic, Trump attacked the World Health Organization – which warned of COVID-19’s dangers long before Trump acted – and even threatened to end funding for the critical medical organization despite its importance during this crisis.
- Lastly, some of the most significant lies Trump uttered this week include: his recent overblown claims of closing the border to China early and providing testing at U.S. airports; his incorrect bragging about the country’s coronavirus testing capabilities and facilities; and his repeated erroneous assertions that he acted as soon as he heard about COVID-19. The intelligence community warned the Trump administration as early as November 2019 about the emergence of a pandemic in Wuhan, but Trump didn’t take any actions related to coronavirus until January 31. Even then, he was constantly downplaying the threat of the crisis to Americans, despite significant evidence to the contrary.
Disappointingly, we also learned that the Federal Communications Commission will not investigate Trump over the reams of misinformation that he has been spreading since the pandemic began, even with the very real dangers his lies pose to people nationwide (like his promotion of an unproven cure for the coronavirus, for example).
The Washington Post recently crowned Trump Commander of Confusion, and at PFAW, we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re here, to help you comb through the muck and make sure we’re all as informed as possible during this crisis.