The dangerous deception

Another day, another bunch of Trump lies revealed, as well the lies of those around him who are supposed to be public servants. Much attention has been paid to Bob Woodward’s latest book that says that Trump knew about the dangers posed by the coronavirus as far back as in February but downplayed the threat.

Donald Trump knew the extent of the deadly coronavirus threat in February but intentionally misled the public by deciding to “play it down”, according to interviews recorded by one of America’s most venerated investigative journalists.

As early as 28 January 2020, Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, gave him a “jarring” warning, informing the president that Covid-19 would be the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. Trump’s head “popped up”, the book says.

Three days later, Trump announced restrictions on travel from China, although the virus was already in the United States.

On 7 February he told Woodward in a phone call: “It goes through the air. That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

He added: “This is deadly stuff.”

But February, in the view of Woodward and many other analysts, was a wasted month. On 27 February, Trump said publicly: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” In a tweet on 9 March, he explicitly compared it to the common flu, noting that “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on” in flu season. “Think about that!”

Trump says he downplayed the danger so as to not cause panic. That is not plausible. While not wanting to unduly alarm the nation is understandable for any leader, it should have been accompanied by vigorous action to combat the known threat. The fact that he not only did almost nothing but tried to prevent others from taking preventative action suggests that believed his own lies, and was gambling that the effects of the pandemic would not be so bad as to harm him politically.

In May a study was released that imposing lockdowns and physical distancing just a week earlier could have saved as many as 36,000 lives.

But that’s not all the book reveals.

Just two months before he seeks re-election, Trump is quoted describing former president George W Bush as “a stupid moron” and mocking the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality and an end to police brutality.

In June, at the height of protests against racial injustice after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Woodward suggested to Trump that white and privileged men like them need to appreciate the plight of African Americans

Trump replied, “No,” in a mocking voice. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

But even worse than that is the latest whistleblower complaint by Brian Murphy, the former principal deputy undersecretary in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, where he was responsible for all of DHS’s intelligence work. that pretty much the entire top echelons of the DHS aided and abetted Trump’s lies in order to protect his fragile ego.

They juiced the numbers to fabricate a non-existent terrorist threat on the southern border to make the case for President Trump’s border wall. They buried the intelligence about Russian interference in American elections to keep the president happy. They demanded the reassignment or termination of “deep state” analysts whose reports didn’t fit the administration’s predetermined narrative about violence and corruption in Latin America. And they retaliated against the career official who dared to question or resist these moves.

Murphy’s complaint alleges a staggering array of wrongdoing, including perjury and illegal retaliation, not to mention deceptions perpetrated on the American people. A former active-duty Marine and FBI agent, Murphy says he was demoted from his position as the top intelligence official at DHS and an adviser to the Homeland Security secretary as retribution for speaking out against the alleged wrongdoing described in his complaint.

Trump allowed Woodward to record the 18 interviews with him so it is all out there. Trump is so vain that he craves to be in the media spotlight and gives these interviews but at the same time is so indisciplined that he says things that are better left unsaid. Or at least would be left unsaid by normal, decent people. In this case, he seems to have realized too late that this was a mistake.

President Trump was “ecstatic” about the prospect of sitting for interviews with Woodward, according to a White House official, and relished some of his conversations with the famous Washington Post journalist. 

Ultimately, Trump spoke with Woodward 18 times for the book. And at some point along the way, he had a change of heart, becoming convinced that Woodward was using him. Trump then began rage-tweeting the very reporter with whom he was so psyched to go on the record.

“The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been,” the president tweeted, seemingly out of the blue, last month. Later that month, Trump logged back on to blast the veteran reporter as a “social pretender” who “never has anything good to say.”

This is the problem with being so vain. You think you are always in command and controlling the situation.


  1. Shawn Smith says

    I don’t think Bob Woodward comes out looking very good with these tapes. He sat on them for at least 6 months, just to drum up sales for his latest book on 45. How many people died just so Bob Woodward could make a few extra bucks on yet another salacious book? No one is going to change their minds because of this book. He could have released the tapes much earlier and that release could have convinced more people to follow the advice public health experts instead of using going maskless as some kind of political statement. What a couple of scumbags.

  2. says

    Trump says he downplayed the danger so as to not cause panic. That is not plausible.

    Administration insiders used the opportunity to re-balance their stock portfolios; Trump wasn’t the only one who was downplaying it for a reason.

    Bob Woodward is a self-important jackass who feels he has done a great deal for journalism, but that’s only because Bob Woodward seems to think that he is journalism incarnate, or something. His technique is fascinating: he sucks ass to the powerful, then writes his impression of their views in historical context. Wow. Mostly, though, he sucks ass. He earned his chops as a great investigative reporter when an FBI assistant director used him as a conduit to publish a bunch of dirt against a president who had gotten too close to the CIA; FBI and CIA being rival agencies. I’m not sure what about Woodward’s role as a conduit made him a great journalist. Granted, he’s better than Shaun Hannity. But, so what?

    I do think it was probably good that Woodward waited until Trump’s position was thoroughly dug in, and his waiting until his book came out so he could cash in bigly it might help sink Trump in the election was a good thing.

    What I don’t understand about Woodward is why anyone talks to him, and how he can stand being a professional rimjobber for overblown egoes in Washington. Surely, he’s got enough money; is this Woodward’s idea of a good time?

  3. jenorafeuer says

    I was reading another article earlier which noted that you could make educated guesses as to who Woodward’s other sources were based on whose specific narrative he was following in a lot of spots in the book. Many of those people have been Trump’s active enablers the entire time, but are painted by Woodward in more glowing lights because they’re better at pretending to be ‘classical’ Conservatives; when in reality, they’re in the same horrible ballpark as Trump is, but Woodward is right there daubing the makeup to help keep the masks in place.

    Along the lines of folks like Bolton, who broke from Trump mostly because Trump wasn’t horrible enough on Bolton’s specific interests.

    I think this explains why people talk to him: he makes a wonderful cutout for hatchet jobs and he’s great at whitewashing things so the next generation of political grifters can pretend to be responsible people long enough to get into power themselves. (That doesn’t explain Trump, but that’s more likely a simple matter of Trump’s narcissism.)

  4. machintelligence says

    In defense of Bob Woodard; sometimes you have to give a man enough rope to hang himself. If the facts about the virus had been released earlier, they would have been downplayed and ignored by half of the populace, just as they are right now, in spite of the awful figures on infection and deaths. Nothing was stopping Trump and the Republicans from recognizing reality and acting in a responsible manner and some words from a journalist, even with backup recordings, would not have changed their minds. Now we can point to the bad actors and hold their feet to the fire at the ballot box. I don’t believe releasing the information early would have made one iota of difference in what we have today.

  5. KG says

    Just two months before he seeks re-election, Trump is quoted describing former president George W Bush as “a stupid moron”

    I suppose even the most dedicated liar occasionally tells the truth by mistake.

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