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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump's virus scandal shows he prefers to ask what his country can do for him

President Donald Trump, seeking to win Florida in

President Donald Trump, seeking to win Florida in November, suddenly reversed and signed an order Tuesday to extend a moratorium on offshore drilling there. Credit: Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Now everyone can hear an audio recording of President Donald Trump acknowledging COVID-19 as a "deadly" threat back in a February interview. Back then, and for many weeks to follow, Trump was telling the public there was nothing to worry about.

Trump's startling statements on the telephone to author and veteran journalist Bob Woodward suggest the president couldn't be bothered to focus on planning ways to protect Americans from a pandemic.

Imagine a president passively stalling amid warnings of a military invasion.

Nobody should be shocked. Evidence has mounted for years that Trump uses his administration to promote his image to his fan base, not to govern the nation. Examples of his self-serving behavior mount as he campaigns against Joe Biden.

The Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr has been turning into Trump's taxpayer-subsidized law firm. This week, news broke that the department was involved in fending off private litigation stemming from a rape accusation against citizen Trump. The incident cited by writer E. Jean Carroll allegedly occurred in the 1990s in Manhattan. Trump also is using the department to get back at officials who investigated Russiagate and to help associates of his who were convicted in connection withhis 2016 presidential campaign.

This week, Trump suddenly expanded a moratorium on offshore oil drilling for three states including Florida, a key battleground state in which he and Biden face a close battle for 29 electoral votes. Never mind that Trump wanted the drilling bans killed in the first place. The announcement is seen as a departure from the administration's business-deregulation mantra.

Clearly this eleventh-hour policy reversal wasn't about energy production or the environment.

"Who would have thought Trump is the great environmentalist?" he crowed. "And I am. I am. I believe strongly in it."

Peter Navarro is a White House trade adviser who also intervenes in the government's belated coronavirus response. Given Navarro's partisan harangue at reporters this week, however, he might as well moonlight as a campaign spokesman.

This White House laughs at the Hatch Act, which is meant to keep officials from using their public positions for partisan purposes. Trump snubs the usual pieties about public service, military and otherwise.

Even Norway comes into play when Trump is serving himself.

A right-wing Norwegian politician has nominated the U.S. president for a Nobel Peace Prize. Trump seems to have some interest in this European nation. He cited it as an example of one foreign country from which he'd accept help or information in the election, if offered. He's also said he'd like to see more immigrants from Norway, as opposed to countries he describes with epithets.

What other president has done or said these things?

After using the White House as a backdrop for part of last month's GOP convention, the South Lawn and Rose Garden remain torn up. This is in keeping with having border police, in uniform, at his party nomination. It also jibes with using the military to clear Black Lives Matter protesters for a photo op after Trump had sheltered in the White House bunker days earlier.

More than other presidents, Trump has treated the White House grounds as his private property, and the uniformed federal personnel as his valets.

Another fresh insight into the "Me" presidency comes in a book published by convicted ex-Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen. According to Cohen, Trump fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin in the first place because he saw him as a source of future business opportunities.

Trump never had a job outside the family business. He doesn't seem to think his election made the people of the United States his boss. The other day, he indicated he wouldn't bother to meet with Democratic leaders over a new coronavirus relief bill. "Let me just tell you, I know my customers," he said cryptically.

Maybe in retrospect, his "customers" would have appreciated full and early disclosure about the worst public health emergency of a lifetime. But with more than 190,000 dead from COVID-19, it's too late for them to demand disclosure.

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