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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Faced with his deception on COVID-19, Trump extends his list of excuses

President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally

President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally Thursday at MBS International Airport in Freeland, Mich. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

A new entry this week tops President Donald Trump's long list of shaky excuses and fragile alibis. Confronted with the fact that he privately warned of the deadly threat from COVID-19 while he was denying it to the public, Trump said he wanted to keep everyone calm.

“I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he told author Bob Woodward in March. "I love this country."

Yet Trump has no problem hyping up a nightmare vision of urban "carnage" to get votes. He evokes "caravans" invading the nation from south of the border and spreads distrust in the electoral process, the postal system and state public health measures. He seeks to frighten voters in suburbs based on no evidence.

Consider his tweets in 2014 about the Ebola virus overseas. "The U.S. cannot allow Ebola infected people back," he said in one post at the time. "People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!" Two people died of Ebola in the U.S. under President Barack Obama, compared with more than 190,000 who died of the coronavirus so far under Trump.

Trump seems to view public fear as more than acceptable if it can work in his favor. While in office and seeking reelection, he deploys various excuses to explain away instances of corruption, incompetence, inaction and divisiveness.

He justified using his presidency to push Ukraine to help him smear Democrat Joe Biden, all the while claiming to fight corruption in a foreign country backed by the U.S.

The scandal led to impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House. The GOP-controlled Senate rescued Trump by acquitting him earlier this year, two days before he was recorded telling Woodward the coronavirus was "deadly stuff."

In what may have been his first far-fetched excuse as president, in 2017, Trump said he'd lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton due to millions of illegal ballots. Where did they come from? How did it work? A vote-fraud commission was formed but disbanded after discovering nothing.

Later, Trump said he wouldn’t answer questions in person in then-special counsel Robert Mueller's legally authorized probe of Russian election interference, calling it a “witch hunt.” Trump's lawyer warned of a perjury trap, despite the fact that anyone can avoid that by telling the truth.

Trump said he couldn’t show his taxes as promised earlier because of an IRS audit. There was never evidence of any audit. All along, the IRS said he was free to release his returns as presidential candidates have done since the 1970s.

Dozens of polls show Trump trailing Biden. Trump calls them “fake,” although surveys show millions of Americans distrust the president and think the country is heading in the wrong direction under his tenure.

Disorder, protests, and crime are way up around the nation, on Trump's watch. HIs excuse: "Radical" Democrats run the cities and blue states.

The president and his defenders try to convince whoever they can that the U.S. still has a border problem because of George Soros, "caravans" and "open-border" radicals. In fact, Trump can't seem to negotiate the narrowest of immigration deals with Congress.

One of the favors he extends to his fans is to craft excuses for them. Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, allegedly shot three protesters, and killed, killing two of them, amid disturbances in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 30 minutes from where Rittenhouse lives. Trump said it looked like Rittenhouse was trying to get away from protesters. Son Donald Trump Jr. remarked, "We all do stupid things at 17."

At one point, Trump suggested that school shootings continued on his watch because teachers went unarmed.

Back when the FBI raided the office and home of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer was still in the president's good graces. "Attorney — client privilege is dead!" Trump tweeted. "It's a disgraceful situation."

Last fall, Trump faced a bipartisan ethics backlash for pushing to have the next G-7 conference at one of his Florida properties. He caved under pressure, blaming "irrational hostility," and insisted, "I thought I was doing something very good for our Country."

For the love of country. Of course. That's remarkably similar to his defense of his COVID-19 remarks to Woodward. But the fact remains that Trump delayed an all-out response to the spread, which has cost tens of thousands of American lives.

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