During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump told a reporter that fear is “real power.” His preference for Machiavellian machinations has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic as he continues to do everything in his power to deflect responsibility for his failures.
- One of the week’s most alarming developments came on May 20, when Trump tweeted that he would withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada if they expanded voter access ahead of the 2020 election. His false claims of voter fraud and corruption and his potentially illegal threats have become especially worrisome during the pandemic. Significant improvements in election security and safety measures during the time of coronavirus are desperately needed but are being stonewalled by Republican lawmakers. Republicans’ voter suppression tactics in 2020 include plans to send 50,000 “poll-watchers” to polling places nationwide to monitor “voters deemed suspicious.”
- Trump has continued to remove oversight officials from their government positions. Last Friday, after the publication of that week’s round-up, Trump fired Steve A. Linick, an inspector general at the State Department. Linick had been working on an inquiry into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks. During the following days, the White House spoke openly about the retaliatory nature of this dismissal, confirming that Pompeo himself requested that the inspector general be let go. Trump’s efforts to “dismantle the multiple mechanisms of accountable democracy” are especially harmful during this public health crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also been feeling pressure from Trump to conform to his preferences, with the administration pressuring the agency to revise down the U.S. death count and CDC staff saying that they have felt “muzzled” during the pandemic.
- According to a new report, only 13 percent of small businesses that applied for Trump’s bungled Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) were approved for the loan. Without that aid, just 31 percent of the 7 million small businesses in the U.S. can afford to operate for another few months or less under the existing stay-at-home measures – and six percent could be forced to close in less than a week. These disbursement delays are also happening in other pandemic stimulus programs.
- Trump continues to advance his racist anti-immigration agenda during the pandemic: The New York Times reported on May 20 that the Trump administration has cruelly deported hundreds of migrant children since the onset of COVID-19, often alone and without notifying their families. Additionally, the Trump administration has been refusing to provide the coronavirus legislation-required stimulus payments to families that include a non-U.S. citizen spouse, exposing them to even greater harm during this crisis.
- While everyday Americans struggle to put food on their families’ tables, we continue to learn about how many Trump allies and campaign donors were able to easily get a hold of coronavirus stimulus funding. Some new examples include: A hotel company that made $2.2 billion last year and is owned by a large Trump donor received $96.1 million meant for small businesses. Another Trump donor’s private jet company received a $27 million bailout. A technology company whose largest shareholder is Trump’s reelection campaign manager received almost $800,000 from the small businesses relief fund. In addition, Trump’s newly appointed “vaccine czar” reportedly has significant ties to Moderna, the company that this week became the first to enter a vaccine into clinical trials.
- Almost exactly one year before the onset of the coronavirus lockdown, Trump declared that the GOP was going to become the “party of health care.” Not only has this promise not materialized, the Republicans have followed Trump’s path toward destroying health care in this country altogether. Moreover, he has continued to spin the administration’s disastrous coronavirus response with similar rhetoric, asserting that their next pandemic phase is going to be the “transition to greatness.” He also claimed that he considers the devastating death count (more than 93,000) to be a sign of progress and a “badge of honor.” Yet, there are new COVID-19 hot spots appearing in the South and the Midwest and more than half of all U.S counties don’t have even one testing site. Republican administration officials have been searching for “pro-Trump” doctors who are willing to publicly prescribe a rapid reopening of both society and the economy, to help aid Trump’s overzealous push to prematurely remove stay-at-home restrictions. And the Republican-funded lockdown protests that Trump supported appear to have spread coronavirus widely in those communities, according to cellphone data.
- Trump doubled down on his support of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine this week, saying that he has been taking it himself and calling the study that disproves its effectiveness and emphasizes its danger a “Trump enemy statement.” He also baselessly dismissed the official FDA warning against hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.
- A new study released by Columbia University disease modelers demonstrates that had Trump listened to health care experts and started social-distancing measures only one week earlier in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the U.S. due to the pandemic. Instead, at the time, he was busy downplaying the danger of COVID-19. Today, he continues to downplay the dangers of the pandemic and denies the people who are hardest hit by the pandemic’s economic effects a vital extension of their unemployment insurance. These are not the actions of a true leader.
The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus recently described the “exhaustion factor” in reading or producing any coverage of Trump during this unprecedented crisis. It’s difficult to read over and over again about Trump abdicating responsibility for his failures, his lies, his cronyism, and his lack of empathy. But it’s crucial that we don’t permit ourselves to become numb to these outrages. Together, we will prevail and build an America that honors the values of justice, opportunity, and equity for all.