President Donald Trump told author Bob Woodward in a recently revealed March interview that he deliberately played down the lethality of the coronavirus to avoid a public panic. Joe Biden charged on Monday that it was Trump, not the American people, who couldn't handle the truth.
"Trump panicked," Biden told workers at an aluminum foundry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. "The virus was too big for him.
"All his life, Donald Trump has been bailed out of any problem he faced," Biden said in an apparent allusion to the president's brushes with business bankruptcy. "And with this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn’t up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked."
The consequences, Biden said, are that "due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence, in the past six months [we] have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history. Sadly, it's not over. As awful as the past 180 days have been, the next 90 days could be twice as bad." Americans, he said, must avoid "becoming numb to the toll that is taken."
Trump defended his record on handling the pandemic, while admitting the public hasn't been persuaded to agree, in a phone-in chat on "Fox & Friends" on Monday. "On the job itself, we take an A-plus," he said. "On public relations, I give myself a D." He blamed "fake news."
The Trump administration generated new confusion in recent days as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidance on its website Friday — but then took it down Monday — saying aerosol transmission might be one of the "most common" ways COVID-19 spreads. (Aerosols are released when breathing, talking or singing and are smaller than droplets from coughing or sneezing.) The agency says that guidance was a draft version of proposed changes that was "posted in error." The removal comes amid reports of political meddling with scientific recommendations.
Trump: RBG's 'dying wish' fishy
Trump said, with zero basis, that he doesn't believe the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish, as dictated to her granddaughter, was: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
On "Fox & Friends," Trump remarked: "I don't know that she said that, or was that written out by [Rep.] Adam Schiff, and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi. I would be more inclined to the second." He stuck to that story later with reporters at the White House, saying, "It was just too convenient."
Schiff tweeted after Trump's remarks on Fox: "Mr. President, this is low. Even for you." Granddaughter Clara Spera's account was reported Friday evening shortly after Ginsburg's death by NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg, a longtime close friend of the judge. Totenberg confirmed her account on MSNBC Monday and said others in the room at the time witnessed Ginsburg making the statement, including her doctor.
Regardless of Ginsburg's wish, Trump said he was moving forward to nominate a conservative successor he wanted the Senate to confirm before Election Day. Five women were on his list, including Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who met with him at the White House on Monday. Trump said he would announce his pick Friday or Saturday, after memorials at the Supreme Court and the Capitol conclude but before Ginsburg is buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Suspense remained over whether two more Republicans would join Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine in opposing Senate action on a nomination before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can afford only one more defection. A decision from Mitt Romney of Utah, Trump's biggest nemesis in the Senate GOP, could come Tuesday. But McConnell got closer to moving forward when Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado said they would go along with the proceedings.
The Big Anarchist Apple?
Trump wants voters to believe that if Biden wins, "far-left lunatics won’t just be running failed Dem Cities … No city, town or suburb will be safe."
Carrying Trump's campaign message, Attorney General William Barr on Monday pronounced New York City an "anarchist jurisdiction" that permits "violence and destruction of property" and should forfeit federal funding as a result. Seattle and Portland, Oregon, were similarly designated as places where "we cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance," Barr said.
Unrest that began in all three cities with the George Floyd protests has abated in recent weeks. In a joint statement, Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York City, Ted Wheeler of Portland and Jenny Durkan of Seattle said Trump is "playing cheap political games with congressionally directed funds" in a move that is "thoroughly political and unconstitutional." New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James threatened to sue if federal funds are withheld.
"We just got to get real about this guy," de Blasio said of Trump and his strategy. "It is always divide and create hatred and move people to vote based on that hatred." For more, see Newsday's story by Michael O'Keeffe with Michael Gormley.
Janison: Misdirection accomplished
The Trump-Barr "anarchist jurisdiction" play may get no further than defunding "sanctuary cities" or the president "considering" an initiative to send migrants arrested at the border to these Democratic Party strongholds.
No matter. It served the purpose of getting news sites to immediately reuse photos of arson and chaos from police-brutality protests that spawned rioting over the summer, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Government results or the lack of them always seems beside the point.
Trump also is orchestrating the maximum drama and suspense around his pending Supreme Court pick. It gives Trump a story to crow about in the final stretch to Election Day, and a diversion from the pandemic reaching the awful milestone of 200,000 dead.
Trump campaign rolls snake eyes
A federal court has rejected the Trump campaign's attempt to roll back changes to Nevada's election laws under which all active registered voters will be sent paper ballots without having to ask for them.
Trump has been successful in a few legal claims in other states against absentee ballot rules adopted because of the pandemic. But the ruling against him in Nevada follows a series of losses where courts refused to cut back mail-in voting and buy into the campaign's warnings of the potential for widespread voter fraud.
Nevada's Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, sided with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in arguing the new system should stand to avoid disenfranchising voters.
Anti-Fauci troll unmasked
A public affairs specialist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the agency headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, lived a double life by writing under a pseudonym for the conservative RedState website, the Daily Beast revealed.
Among his observations: The "virus scare was nothing more or less than a massive fraud" perpetrated by public health officials who deserve to be "sent to the gallows" and left on display until "their tarred bodies in chains until they fall apart." He called Fauci a "mask nazi."
The author, William Crews, writing under the byline "streiff" and listed as a RedState managing editor, was not a Trump appointee, though he became a supporter. Crews worked as a press officer at NIAID since 2007.
Following the Daily Beast's story, a spokeswoman for NIAID, Kathy Stover, said Crews would "retire" from his position.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump told a rally in Ohio on Monday night the coronavirus "affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects. That’s it." No, that's not it.
- A federal judge in New York ordered Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to treat all election-related mail as first-class and restore overtime for U.S. Postal Service employees. Judge Victor Marrero said "the right to vote is too vital a value" for doubts to be stoked among Americans on "whether their votes will ultimately be counted."
- Andrew Weissmann, who served as a top deputy to Robert Mueller, writes in a forthcoming book that the special counsel's office should have acted more aggressively "to uncover the truth" in the Russia investigation and declare that the president obstructed justice. Trump, Weissmann wrote, is "like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong."
- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office, still battling in federal court for Trump's tax returns, suggested for the first time on Monday that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud, The New York Times reported.
- If Biden wins, he's not likely to reverse all of Trump's foreign policy decisions, the Democrat's advisers told Politico. Biden likely would stick with a harder line toward China and keep the U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. But the former vice president, unlike Trump, has spoken about restoring global alliances, promoting human rights and standing up to dictators.
- Biden was wrong when he said in a speech Sunday that the Supreme Court has no sessions scheduled before Election Day, PolitiFact writes. There are seven days of oral arguments scheduled until then. Biden was urging the Senate to wait to see who wins the election before filling Ginsburg's seat.