Trump lied, Americans died
If these were "normal" times a scandal involving a situation where the president's lies caused tens of thousands of Americans to die would be the worst scandal in U.S. history but with Trump, a serial liar in the White House, there is a danger that it can be chalked up to just another of his very routine crimes and lies. | AP

WASHINGTON—There’s a hashtag flying fast around Twitter that says all you need to know about the top revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, containing interviews with and about Oval Office occupant Donald Trump:

“#TrumpLiedAmericansDied” it reads.

Because that, according to 18 tape-recorded interviews Woodward had with Trump, which are now playing on the Internet, is what the GOP president did when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Trump knew as early as January 28 the pandemic hitting the U.S. was dangerous and thousands of Americans would sicken and die. Yesterday Trump admitted it all, including that he had told Woodward of Watergate fame about it months ago.

Trump’s own national security staff caught his attention, sharply, in a January briefing, by flatly saying the coronavirus would be the top U.S. security threat of his term and as bad, if not worse, than the flu pandemic a century ago.

Trump paid attention, yet kept lying to the country about the pandemic. But not to Woodward.

The tapes reveal Trump’s lies about the pandemic, his prejudice against Blacks, his denial of white privilege, show his cozying up to dictators, his nuclear saber-rattling, and more. His own words, caught on tape, show why Trump is already dangerous to the U.S. and why he would be even more of a disaster for the country and the globe should he win a second term.

Woodward’s co-author of the Watergate revelations—confirmed by GOP President Richard Nixon’s tapes—told CNN this is far worse. “This is a kind of homicidal negligence,” Carl Bernstein said.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said of the pandemic in that early February call to Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.” Trump initiated the calls.

But publicly then, and for months afterwards, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common cold and predicted it would go away of its own accord. His regime also did nothing about it. It still hasn’t, says Trump’s foe in the fall general election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward, on the record and on tape on March 19. And when the book excerpts hit the wires on September 9, Trump reiterated that point in his press conference that afternoon.

All this led Woodward, at the end of the book, to write: “Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states. There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has raged. As of 10:30 a.m. on September 10, 6.366 million people have tested positive for the virus since the government finally formally acknowledged the pandemic on March 13. And 190,909 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s worldwide coronavirus tracker, one of the nation’s most authoritative sources.

It’s as if every man, woman, and child in Chicago and Los Angeles caught the virus and everyone in Mobile, Ala., plus 2,000 people in its suburbs, is dead. The U.S. accounts for 22.8% of the world’s people who have tested positive and 21% of the dead, all because of Trump’s inaction.

No wonder one sign posted in a photo on Twitter, called Trump “Murderer.”

Woodward’s book, to be published this month, precedes the November election by fewer than 60 days. It might therefore be called the “September Surprise” before the balloting, rather than the “October surprise”(s) that have hit prior to past U.S. presidential votes.

The coronavirus revelation is the top one in the book and has produced the most outrage, both political and personal. It’s also not the only one, as Woodward also spoke to Trump staffers, former top administration officials, and other sources. Among the other top points:

  • Trump frequently exchanged fawning letters with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who always addressed the president as “Your Excellency.” Trump said publicly he was trying to get North Korea to denuclearize. The CIA told Trump his face-to-face talks wouldn’t work. He dismissed that. The CIA was correct of course in that case. They were aware that it is the U. S. that is the aggressor on the Korean Penninsula. The U.S. has the Penninsula surrounded with nuclear weapons and it has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea threatening the sovereignty of North Korea.

“I met. Big f**king deal,” Trump told Woodward on tape. “It takes me two days. I met. I gave up nothing.”

Trump also viewed the talks with the Korean leader from the perspective of a real estate deal, with Kim having second thoughts about the equivalent of selling his house. “We fell in love,” Trump said of his letter exchange with Kim.

  • Trump bragged about his meetings with foreign leaders in general.“It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,” Trump said after meeting Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “You know? Explain that to me someday, OK?”
  • Trump insisted on calling his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, by Obama’s first and middle names: “Barack Hussein,” emphasizing the middle name.

That crack continues the Trump-led “birther” campaign against Obama, which Trump began years before the Republican’s presidential run. “Birthers” are certain that Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was born there and is a Muslim. Obama was born in Hawaii and is a Christian.

  • When millions of people, now an estimated 10%-plus of the U.S. population, took to the streets to demand an end to the nation’s systematic racism and its glorification of white privilege, Trump denied the problem even exists.

“No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you?” he told Woodward, also raised in a privileged white family, though not one as rich as Trump’s. “Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all” he said of the benefits of white privilege.

“Drank the Kool-Aid” refers to a massacre extremist cult leader Jim Jones forced on his followers in the jungles of Guyana several decades ago. Jones fed dozens of them, along with a visiting Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., probing the cult, poisoned Kool-Aid.

  • Trump voluntarily bragged to Woodward two days after Trump’s troops routed peaceful protesters from D.C.’s Lafayette Park so he could walk across it from the White House to brandish a Bible in front of a nearby historic church.

“We’re going to get ready to send in the military slash National Guard to some of these poor bastards that don’t know what they’re doing, these poor radical lefts,” Trump said.

  • Trump revealed the existence of a previously secret nuclear weapons system to Woodward, without going into detail. Woodward confirmed its existence with other top officials. Later stories say the nukes are portable.

Woodward himself has caught some flak for sitting on the tapes and the book, until now. He told the Associated Press he did so because he wanted to double-check and time-check everything Trump said, given Trump’s continual record of lying, in press conferences, official statements, and on the campaign trail. Fact-checkers have documented approximately 20,000 Trump lies and distortions, with the frequency rising as the election nears.

“He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?’” Woodward told AP.

The tapes also paint unflattering portraits of White House infighting, which was a top theme of Woodward’s prior insider book about the Trump regime, Fear. And some of the saner former top Trump officials, notably ex-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, talked about how to curb Trump and particularly his access to nukes.

Reaction to the revelations has been furious.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump’s foe this fall, took time out from a speech to Auto Workers in Warren, Mich., to address the book and the Trump tapes.

“He knew and purposely played it down,” Biden said of Trump’s response, or lack of it, to the pandemic. “Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country, for months.”

One of the three lawmakers who have lost relatives to the virus, Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minn., was even more caustic. Her father, Nur Omar Mahomed, died in June.

“All I can think about is my father and the nearly 200,000 other people who lost their lives to COVID-19 as a result of this president’s gross negligence and lies,” Omar tweeted, using the coronavirus’s official name. “Trump had the power to save lives and went out of his way not to.”

Bernstein called what the tapes reveal “one of the great presidential felonies of all time.”

“We listen to him cover up this grave national emergency. This is one of the great presidential felonies of all time–maybe the greatest presidential felony, and we have the smoking gun tape of the president committing the felony,” he told CNN.

The smoking gun on the Watergate tapes was Nixon ordering the coverup of the burglary and other White House actions to undermine the Constitution and the 1972 election.

“What you hear time and time again is the president forgetting about the national interest, selling out the national interest, minimizing the national interest, and putting in his own interest, that of his family, that of his own finances,” Bernstein said.

“That is the text of this book, not a subtext. It’s the text of those tapesundermining our well-being deliberately for his own ends. It is stunning and as I say, a presidential felony unlike any we’ve known of in our history,” Bernstein added. He also said if GOP defenders of Trump try to explain away the Oval Office occupant’s actions, they are also responsible for the destruction.

“This is a kind of homicidal negligence. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people have lost their lives because the president put his own re-election interest,” he said.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.