Report from House Oversight Committee emphasizes how Trump deliberately suppressed COVID-19 data

Report from House Oversight Committee emphasizes how Trump deliberately suppressed COVID-19 data
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, addresses his remarks Friday, April 24, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
Frontpage news and politics

On Feb. 25, 2020 Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, gave a somber warning of what lay ahead. Americans, said Dr. Messonier, should expect “disruption to everyday life may be severe.“ She explained that, after looking at the information then available on the novel coronavirus pandemic spreading from China, that she had sat down and held a talk with her own family. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more exactly when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” Two days later, Dr. Messonier was instructed to stop giving press conferences, and essentially sidelined from the handling of the pandemic.

That Donald Trump downplayed the threat represented by COVID-19 and attempted to suppress information related to the scope of the danger, is not exactly a surprise. Whether it was Trump’s claim that there were only 15 cases in the U.S. and that it would soon be down to zero, or the ridicule directed at both scientists and politicians who attempted to be honest with the public, Trump’s actions generated tens of thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. In November, documents were released showing some of the ways Trump and his team worked to silence scientists, hide the recommendations from the CDC and other agencies, and block release of information such as the importance of wearing masks.

And now the House Oversight Committee is back, with an extensive report that compiles both errors and deliberate suppression of the facts. That report shows that Trump was responsible for both “critical failures” and, in what should be the first step in a criminal indictment, "deliberate efforts to undermine the nation's coronavirus response for political purposes,"

Every politician is a position of power is called on to make decisions that can affect lives. Whether that represents a small number of soldiers being tasked with a risky mission, or funds being allocated to repair a bridge crossed by thousands of commuters each day, those decisions can have the most severe consequences.

In the course of events, the pushback against those in charge is generally limited to the political: Make a bad decision, and the threat is losing your seat in the next election. Forcing politicians to stand in front of a court for something they did in office—if that something was not an actual crime, like bribery or extortion—is a genuinely rare event. And it should be.

But what Trump did over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic goes beyond bad decision-making, or even the ugly politics of retribution. We’ve known since last year that Trump’s team repeatedly took actions, not to prevent infections, but to deliberately increase them. We already know that

  • HHS political appointee Paul Alexander demanded that CDC stop publishing scientific reports he believed were damaging to Trump. CDC officials were then ordered to delete Alexander’s emails to cover up this attempt to quash vital public data.
  • Dr, Deborah Birx has confirmed that quack Dr. Scott Atlas was brought into the COVID-19 team specifically to reduce the level of testing across the nation, generating a false impression that case loads were falling.

The new report also shows that Trump’s team did with COVID-19 what they did with every other project while he was in charge: opened it up to corruption and “left the federal government vulnerable to fraud and profiteering.”

How Donald Trump managed the COVID-19 crisis wasn’t a litany of errors. It wasn’t even just a cascade of crimes. It was an attempted genocide, one in which Trump repeatedly took actions designed to cause more deaths out of a mistaken impression that those deaths would mostly affect urban areas in blue states. They didn’t just commit a crime against humanity, they knew it, because they devoted resources to trying to cover up that crime.

What Trump did leading up to Jan. 6 is unforgivable and deserves criminal prosecution. What he did in handling COVID-19 is far worse.

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