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OPINION

Trump Is Spreading Disinformation About Coronavirus — and There’s No Way to Stop Him

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President Donald Trump is actively spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Late Thursday morning, for example, Trump sent the following tweet:

This is not so. There are undoubtedly more than 129 cases in the United States; the problem is, testing has been so slow — and at times completely botched — that we don’t have a good sense of how many cases of coronavirus there are in the country. So Trump is trying to use his own administration’s ineptitude as a reason to think the crisis is less severe than it is. And some analysts believe that the actual number of cases is much higher than the number of confirmed cases. The outlet Stat reported on one analysis that looked just at Seattle:

The author of the analysis, a computational biologist named Trevor Bedford, said there are likely already at least 500 to 600 cases of Covid-19 in the greater Seattle area. He urged health authorities and the public to immediately begin adopting non-pharmaceutical interventions — imposing “social distancing” measures, telling the sick to isolate themselves, and limiting attendance at large gatherings.

“Now would be the time to act,” Bedford, who is at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told STAT.

As long as a large number of cases are unconfirmed, the virus will be more likely to spread.

All of which makes it obvious that Trump’s claim that he closed the borders to reduce the spread of the virus is false. He never did such a thing. The Trump administration did limit entry to the U.S. from non-Americans who had traveled to China, where the virus originated, but this is not “closing the borders.” (Closing the borders is a bad idea, anyway.) And when Americans who had been in China and were potentially carrying the virus were repatriated to the United States, U.S. officials were improperly to work with them and lacked the necessary medical protection, according to a whistleblower. These workers may have spread the infection further.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has intentionally deceived the American people about the number of cases in the United States. In his first press conference on the crisis, Trump repeated and erroneously referred to “15” Americans who had at that time been found to be infected with the virus; this number was actually a subset of the 60 who had been found to be infected. And he predicted this number would soon go down close to zero, even though none of the administration’s health experts were making such a claim.

His effort to downplay and mislead the public about the crisis is particularly disturbing when you consider that Trump said: “We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!” Taken literally, this suggests that they care more about keeping the reportednumber of infections down more than they care about keeping the actual number low. Usually, this would be an unfair and uncharitable way to interpret a public official’s statement, but Trump long ago lost the benefit of the doubt. As we’ve seen, he’s actively inclined to obscure the truth about the outbreak. And one way in which his administration has been deficient in responding to the virus is in its failure to provide enough test kits and information to the medical professionals on the front lines responding to the crisis. While the actual cause for this delay remains unclear, it’s tempting to conclude that the president’s active disinterest in the truth about the crisis could be playing some role.

Trump has promoted other dangerous falsehoods about the outbreak:

  • Trump said the World Health Organization’s estimate of a 3.4 percent death rate for infections was “really a false number. “Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations,” Trumps said on Fox News, “personally, I’d say the number is way under 1 percent.” The true death rate is unknown and disputed in good faith, and the WHO figure may not be accurate, but Trump’s dismissal of it as “false” is baseless.
  • Trump discussed the fact that people could go to work while carrying the virus and get better, seeming to suggest this would be fine. In fact, public health experts are urging people not to go to work if they are sick or infected.
  • He repeatedly compared the virus to the flu, even though estimates suggest the Covid-19 is much deadlier. And its impact on society could be much more severe than the flu because it has the potential to overburden the medical system.
  • Trump has repeatedly said that a vaccine for the virus could be coming soon, even though administration officials have consistently told him and the public that a year to a year-and-a-half is the best-case scenario for having a vaccine ready for widespread use.
  • When asked whether he agreed with his supporters, such as Rush Limbaugh — who falsely claimed the coronavirus was the “common cold” and that it was being weaponized against Trump — Trump said he agreed. He later said the coronavirus was the Democrats’ new “hoax,” though he later said he meant the reactions to the outbreak were the “hoax.”

Many of these claims are actively dangerous. Trump consistently downplays the state of outbreak, and he used the issue to attack the media, which the public will need to rely on for vital information for their own protection. By promoting lies and deceptive spin about the crisis, Trump can encourage dangerous behavior in his supporters and an inadequate response from his administration.

But he remains the president. Democrats tried to remove him for office for a scandal in which he did the same exact thing he’s doing now — placing his own short-sighted interests above the needs of the country — but they failed. Republicans refuse to do anything significant to check his behavior. So until at least January 2021, the United States will be stuck with a man leading the federal government who seems to be acting in ways that make a public health threat worse.

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OPINION

Not Just Dog Walking – IG Trump Fired Had ‘Mostly Completed’ a Report on ‘Fast Track’ of Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

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The Inspector General fired by President Donald Trump late Friday was investigating the possibly illegal orders from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a staffer to walk his dog and pick up his dry cleaning, and other personal errands. There are also complaints about the “quasi-official role” Pompeo’s wife (photo) plays in the State Dept.,  as she did when he was head of CIA. And the White House freely admits Pompeo asked Trump to fire Steve Linick.

But The Washington Post reveals Linick wasn’t just investigating the dog walking – which may have been leaked to throw reporters off the scent of the real scandal.

Linick had “mostly completed” a report on what may have been a false or illegal emergency declaration allowing the fast-tracking of a massive $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. President Trump has strong ties to that country’s leaders and appears to have done them many favors, including protecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the cover up of the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG had mostly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, aides on the Foreign Affairs Committee tell me,” says Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent. “Committee Democrats have also learned that the State Department was recently briefed on the IG’s conclusions in that investigation, aides say.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) told Sargent, “Everybody has been trying to figure out why this relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is so strangely close.”

Last year in July Trump vetoed a bill that would have blocked the sale of the weapons to Saudi Arabia – and then turned around and did it anyway.

The dog walking investigation might have been legitimate, and it’s an abuse of taxpayer funds that in any other administration would have led to the Secretary of State’s immediate “resignation.”

But the investigation into billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which some now say might be evidence of corruption, may be the real reason.

No one knows, because Trump fired the Inspector General.

UPDATE –
NBC News confirms: “Linick was also investigating use of emergency declaration last year to sell arms to Saudis over objections of Congress.”

 

Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Mrs. Susan Pompeo arrive in Rome, Italy, on October 1, 2019.
State Department photo by Ron Przysucha via Flickr

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OPINION

‘Scum’: GOP Congressman Faces Angry Backlash After Grilling Whistleblower Rick Bright About His Blood Pressure

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Rep. Markwayne Mullins (R-OK) spent his time during the hearing to interview whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright about his high blood pressure. While many members of Congress were asking questions about the investigations into hydroxychloroquine, the national stockpile, the administration’s lack of response to early warnings about the coronavirus and how to protect Americans.

The conservative plumber demanded details from Dr. Bright on why he was on medical leave from his new position at the National Institute of Health, where he transitioned after being ousted at the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Bright explained that being ousted, thrust into the spotlight and attacked by conservative media has been more stress than he’s accustomed to experiencing as a doctor.

Mullin then asked why Dr. Bright could appear before Congress but not go to work at the NIH. Mullin didn’t give Dr. Bright time to respond to the question but witnesses are generally subpoenaed to appear before Congress. Bright explained he was taking his vacation time to deal with the Congressional hearing.

The internet swiftly responded to Mullin, calling him out for what they called embarrassing, cruel and an unnecessary line of questioning that didn’t get to the bottom of why over 83,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Moments later Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attacked Dr. Bright, saying he isn’t showing up to work when he’s needed the most. It’s an ironic claim given Azar and Trump removed Bright from his position. If he was so necessary, it’s unclear why Dr. Bright was removed.

You can see their responses below:

.@RepMullin, a former plumber and talk radio host from Oklahoma, is getting right to the issues affecting frightened Americans in a global viral pandemic: a congressional whistleblower's blood pressure and salary. #DrBright

— John Charpentier (@snpsandsnRNPs) May 14, 2020

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OPINION

Pompeo Engages in Huge Coronavirus Gaslighting: ‘Best Experts Think It Was Man-Made’ – Which Is False – Then Flip-Flops

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is engaging is a campaign of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and gaslighting in efforts to shore up President Donald Trump’s MAGA base while ramping up their attacks on China over the coronavirus that to date has killed more than 66,000 people in America.

On Sunday’s ABC News’ “This Week” (video below) Pompeo said the “best experts” think it was “manmade,” referring to the novel coronavirus, then immediately switched and said he believes and trusts the Intelligence Community which says it was not.

“We’ve said from the beginning this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China,” Pompeo  told ABC’s Martha Radditz.  “We took a lot of grief for that from the outset but I think the whole world can see now.”

That’s also false. There was never any question that the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China. (There was one Chinese official who suggested the coronavirus came from the U.S. but no one believed that lie.) The Trump administration took no “grief” for saying the virus came from China – they took tremendous grief for insisting on calling it the “Chinese virus,” and the “Chinese flu,” given the racist implications of those characterizations that have been causing harassment and attacks on those believed to be of Chinese origin.

“I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo told ABC’s Martha Radditz.

There is no credible evidence to date that is true.

Radditz responded, asking Pompeo, “Do you believe it was man-made or genetically modified?”

“Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was man-made, I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Pompeo replied.

Stunned, Radditz tried to challenge Pompeo.

“Your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus was ‘not man-made or genetically modified.'”

Pompeo doesn’t flinch, doesn’t say he misspoke, but he does gaslight: “That’s right. I agree with that. I’ve seen their analysis, I’ve seen the summary that you saw that was released publicly, I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate.”

Radditz, still grappling with Pompeo saying two entirely different things at the same time, pushes further, while giving him the benefit of the doubt, says: “Oh, OK, so just to be clear you do not think it was man-made or genetically modified?”

Pompeo does not say, “Correct,” or, “No, it was not man-made or genetically modified.”

Instead, Pompeo offers up this statement: “I’ve seen what the Intelligence Community has said, I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.”

News outlets, like Bloomberg, decided to report that “Pompeo stopped short of saying the virus was man-made.”

And yet, he began by saying, “the best experts so far seem to think it was man-made.”

But as Radditz noted, the U.S. government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued a statement saying: “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” and added it “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

So there is no official Intelligence Community finding that the coronavirus “came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” or is “man-made,” and yet Pompeo claims he is citing “experts” saying it was man-made.

Gaslighting, disinformation, and conspiracy-theory spreading at its best.

Watch:

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