People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (7/17 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (7/17 Update)

In a month filled with skyrocketing coronavirus case numbers and death rates and persistent economic uncertainty, Donald Trump continues to focus on himself and the impact the deadly pandemic could have on his reelection campaign. Meanwhile, his lies and misdeeds continue to wreak havoc on the American people.

  • On July 14, the administration ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and instead send daily reports on the number of COVID-19 patients at each hospital and the hospital’s capacity to a privately contracted database housed at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS will not be required to share the data with the public, raising concerns about transparency and access under an administration riddled with dishonesty. Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response during the Obama administration, said, “Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust … It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like CDC to do its basic job.”
  • This week the White House continued to attack and undermine Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, likely because of his recent comments criticizing the U.S. response to the pandemic.
    • Trump claimed that Dr. Fauci had “made a lot of mistakes.”
    • On July 12, White House aides anonymously leaked a list of Dr. Fauci’s statements they deemed “questionable.” That same day, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications posted a cartoon that mocked Fauci.
    • Stephen Moore, an informal Trump economic adviser, promised on July 13 to write a policy memo designed to “go after Dr. Fauci.”
    • Peter Navarro, the White House’s trade adviser, published a baseless op-ed against Dr. Fauci on July 14 that reiterated the White House’s criticism.
  • Dr. Fauci responded to the ongoing attacks with frustration over the partisan “games people are playing” that distract from the vital work of combating the coronavirus. Realizing that this tactic was backfiring, the Trump administration then reversed course and began to distance itself from its own attacks.
  • Meanwhile, rather than heeding the advice of health care experts, Trump retweeted posts from politically conservative game show host Chuck Woolery that claimed the coronavirus was all a “lie.” Shortly after, Woolery deleted his Twitter account in the wake of discovering and announcing that his own son had contracted COVID-19.
  • In a sharp reversal of his refusal to adhere to the CDC’s recommendation to wear a face mask, Trump urged Americans to wear them during a White House news conference on July 14. He also finally wore one in public during a July 11 visit with wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The negative effects of his previous refusal to wear one continue, however, as is demonstrated by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement that cities are prohibited from requiring people to wear masks in public.
  • Despite evidence of its harmful effects on some COVID-19 patients, Trump and the White House continue to advocate for the use of hydroxychloroquine, most recently by pressing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize its use to treat the disease.
  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spent a busy Sunday making the rounds on the talk show circuit, supporting Trump’s push to reopen public schools this fall but otherwise offering no clear instruction on whether schools should follow the CDC’s guidance or not.
  • After several states filed lawsuits against the Trump administration’s recently announced policy to strip some international students of their visas, it reversed course and quietly rescinded the policy on July 14.
  • Senate Republicans continued to block the HEROES Act by refusing to vote on the bill before the Senate’s July recess. And when they return, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that his highest priority is shielding corporations from COVID-19-related lawsuits.
  • A new study released on July 14 estimates that more than five million Americans have lost their health care insurance this spring during the coronavirus crisis. Still, Trump continues to push to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite Trump’s attacks on the ACA, some Republicans have started to admit that fighting the ACA in the middle of a health care crisis is “out of step with public demands.”

Trump’s abdication of leadership is becoming clearer by the day. Congress returns from its two-week recess on July 20, and it is incumbent on Senate Republicans to set aside their loyalty to Trump and summon the moral courage to pass the HEROES Act. Trump has made it clear he is unwilling or incapable of otherwise providing the assistance that people need in this crisis.